HONOLULU — Four tourism officials accused of soliciting and accepting travel upgrades for business trips have been fined $12,000.
State rules require employees to travel by coach class when on official business.
A state ethics commission charged Hawaii Tourism Authority CEO George Szigeti and three others after an investigation into allegations that they accepted the upgrades and failed to disclose the gifts as required by law, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday.
The Hawaii State Ethics Commission decided to resolve the investigations without further action by imposing administrative penalties. The resolutions do not constitute admissions of guilt by the employees or findings of violations by the commission. But Szigeti acknowledged that he accepted “courtesy upgrades” to business class twice from Japan Airlines when traveling on state business.
The others accused are Hawaii Tourism Authority Chief Operating Officer Randy Baldemor; Jadie Goo, director of marketing for China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia; and David Uchiyama, former vice president of brand management for the authority.
Baldemor acknowledged he accepted courtesy flight upgrades to business class on six work trips in 2015 and 2016 and acknowledged directing an assistant to solicit upgrades from Japan Airlines, China Airlines and Air China. Goo acknowledged she solicited or accepted upgrades to business class for four trips on Japan Airlines and China Airlines from 2014 to 2016. And Uchiyama acknowledged he solicited flight upgrades for three trips, including first-class upgrades on Air China from Guangzhou to Beijing in November 2014 and from Beijing to Shanghai a few days later.
“Settlement agreements are reached instead of going through the full formal process,” said Daniel Gluck, executive director of the Ethics Commission, which enforces the Ethics Code. Two of the fines have been paid in full, while two others are being paid in installments, Gluck said.
Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com