A Hawaii Department of Education’s facilities manager was fined $11,000 by the Hawaii State Ethics Commission for alleged violations of the state’s Fair Treatment Law for using subordinate employees to perform work on his investment property in Kailua and personal residence on Oahu.

A resolution of investigation was made public Friday against Scot Y. Sueoka, general maintenance and services superintendent of the DOE’s facilities maintenance branch, the division that does all repairs and maintenance for public schools on Oahu.

Sueoka, who has served in that role since around 2004, relied on a DOE electrician and several DOE masons starting in 2013 to do work on a Kailua investment property he was converting into a five-unit apartment building to rent out for income, according to the report.

Queen Liliuokalani Building. Board of Education offices. 16 june 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
The Hawaii Department of Education building in downtown Honolulu. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

He paid the DOE electrician to work on the property at least 10 times and the masons to work at least four to six times, paying each of the individuals a little more than $1,000, according to the report.

Sueoka also admitted to accepting 20 days’ worth of “free labor” valued at several thousand dollars from a fifth DOE subordinate, someone he considers a friend, according to the report.

As for his personal Pauoa residence, Sueoka paid four subordinates to perform work on the property, including a DOE electrician and masons, starting in 2016.

All of these people were paid a little over $1,000 each. He also accepted 20 days’ worth of free labor for an employee to work on the personal residence, according to the report.

Sueoka has contended none of this work was done during state employee work time.

The manager also used his state computer and state email address to conduct rental property business from 2013 to 2018, according to the ethics commission, including corresponding with prospective tenants and responding to requests for quotes for construction materials to prospective vendors.

According to the report, the DOE supervisor “likely violated” Hawaii’s Fair Treatment Law, which “prohibits a state employee from using her or his state position to obtain unwarranted privileges, advantages, or benefits for the employee or others.”

Specifically, he is alleged to be “engaging in substantial financial transactions with subordinate employees, accepting free labor from subordinate employees, and using state e-mail, computer equipment, and time for personal and/or private business purposes.”

In his DOE role, Sueoka oversees 200 employees, including carpenters, electricians and masons, according to the commission.

According to Daniel Gluck, executive director of the State Ethics Commission, the Fair Treatment Law covers such situations because of the employer-employee dynamic at play.

“If something goes wrong with this private transaction outside work, you don’t want that spilling over into the workplace,” he said. Second, “the subordinate may feel if they don’t do the outside work, whether for free or for pay, they may be treated less favorably in the future.”

Two other Hawaii DOE maintenance personnel were cited in Friday’s release: an administrator of the facilities maintenance branch was hit with a $750 fine, and an engineer with the repair and maintenance operations division was fined $3,500.

Not a subscription

Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service.
 
That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
 
Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.

About the Author