Ethics Commission is being manipulated

`Ano`ai kakou…  As you may have heard in the media recently, the Hawaii State Ethics Commission has filed accusations against me that are inaccurate and politically motivated by my opponents who want to muddy up my reputation because this in an election year.  I didn’t break any laws.  I didn’t do anything I’m ashamed of.  And I can defend everything.

Trustee Allowance

I have explained (twice) to the Ethics Commission that I did not use my trustee allowance funds to pay for a “home security system,” an “iTunes gift card,” a “Hawaiian Airlines Premier Club membership,” along with other things they claim, yet they refused to listen.

I did buy the whole office lunch for a secretary that was leaving, but it wasn’t a party for myself and our fiscal department said it was an allowable expense.

I also sent Princess Abigail Kawananakoa flowers in the hospital when she suffered a stroke.  Again, this was allowed under our existing fiscal policy.

The charges for internet and phone lines are permitted under our rules because I use them to communicate with OHA beneficiaries and staff while I’m working from home.  OHA Trustees have been allowed to work from home since 1993.

OHA’s Administration verifies all of the trustee allowance expenses quarterly and will not release the allowance funds for the next year unless everything has been resolved.  I received my Trustee Allowance check every year so this proves I did nothing wrong.

This Attack Is Politically Motivated

It is completely unfair for the commission to go back five years and dig up things they feel violates their rules.  The State Auditor’s recent report indicated that several other Trustees and the CEO were clearly in violation of ethics law and yet I’m the only one the commission charged.  This is so blatantly political.

Legal Fees

The commission also claims I wrongly accepted $72,000 from Princess Abigail Kawananakoa and that I didn’t report it as a gift within their deadline.  The truth is I never saw that money.  It went directly to my attorney to pay for legal fees related to my lawsuit to bring transparency to the Board.

My attorney advised that because I was being sued in my official capacity, anyone could offer to pay my legal fees and therefore it is not a personal “gift.”  However, he later recommended (after the reporting deadline passed) that I disclose the money “in an abundance of caution” and that’s what I did.

The Princess paid for my legal bills because she strongly supports the fiscal accountability I’ve been trying to bring to OHA.  I am just one of the many Hawaiians the Princess has helped over the years.

The Ethics Commission is Being Used

There are three Trustees who strongly support the CEO.  One of these Trustees filed this complaint against me to the Ethics Commission.  My detractors at OHA have been fighting my efforts to clean up our agency for years.  Now they have found an agency willing to help them create distrust and controversy against me in an election year.  It’s obvious they are only trying to shine the light away from the current Attorney General & FBI investigation of OHA.

Aloha Ke Akua.

State Ethics Commission Bungled Investigation

`Ano`ai kakou… On July 17, 2012, I asked the State Ethics Commission’s Executive Director to investigate whether a trustee’s vote to approve OHA’s purchase of a property being financed by Bank of Hawaii, for which she also serves as a Director on their board, was a violation of HRS §84-14 – Conflicts of interests, which states that no employee may take any official action directly affecting a business in which the employee has a substantial financial interest. This includes elected state board members, such as OHA trustees.

Despite my numerous attempts to follow-up, nothing happened for ten months. Then, on April 13, 2013, the trustee being investigated announced that she received letter from the Commission stating she did nothing wrong. I never received a response to my original complaint.

Just when I thought this was all going to be brushed under the rug, the Auditor of the State of Hawaii came out with her September 2013 Report No. 13-07 (to see a copy of the report visit the Auditor’s Website at: and harshly criticized the trustees’ vote to authorize the purchase of the Gentry building.

On pages 20-21 of Report No. 13-07, the State Auditor wrote:

“Trustees’ vote in favor of Gentry acquisition violated OHA investment policy

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Native Hawaiian Trust Fund Investment Policy provides that if a trustee has a personal involvement with any direct investment transaction, or even any perceived conflict of interest, the trustee must disclose the involvement immediately and be recused from both discussions and votes on the transaction.

Contrary to this policy, we found that the board’s decision to purchase the Gentry Pacific Design Center building, a $21.4 million property in Iwilei, hinged on the vote of a trustee who is also a member of the board of directors of the bank that offered the best financing for that acquisition.”

The Auditor concluded that:

“… the trustee’s actions may damage OHA’s reputation and undermine the agency’s credibility with beneficiaries and the public.”

The action also had serious consequences for OHA operations. We were surprised to learn on April 12, 2013 that the loan we got from Bank of Hawaii was not a “secured” loan and that it had to be backed by OHA Trust dollars. OHA’s Hawaii Direct Investment Policy requires that any “recourse” in connection with a loan be counted towards the $25 million maximum allocation. As a result, we can’t make any more investments in Hawaii until the acquisition of OHA’s corporate headquarters is complete.

While I will not comment on the competency of the State Ethics Commission’s investigative staff members, it boggles my mind that after a ten month investigation, they couldn’t find anything wrong with the trustees’ vote to purchase the Gentry building.

I believe the State Ethics Commission’s mishandling of the investigation sends the wrong message to other elected officials who think they can blatantly flout Hawaii’s conflict of interest laws. It also gives the negative perception that the Commission is simply there to protect the status quo instead of aggressively assuring clean ethics in the State of Hawaii.