Amendment would loosen ethics code

LIHU‘E — The county Charter Review Commission last week advanced a proposal that, if approved by voters, would simultaneously broaden and weaken the scope of the Code of Ethics, specifically its rules governing contracts.

Following a confusing discussion featuring four new commissioners and numerous seemingly conflicting motions, a pair of proposed changes to Section 20.03 of the County Charter were approved Feb. 22 and will be sent to the Office of the County Attorney for legal review, the county Office of Boards and Commissions confirmed Wednesday.

A provision currently preventing the county from “enter(ing) into a contract with any person or firm which is represented or assisted personally in the matter by a person who has been an employee of the agency for six months and who participated while in county employment with the subject matter of the contract” would be extended to a full year if the amendment is approved.

The Kaua‘i Board of Ethics voted in December that it had no objection to that change, which would make Kaua‘i’s rule governing contracts with former county workers similar to rules in the other Hawai‘i counties.

A different provision that currently stops the county from “enter(ing) into any contract with an officer or employee or with a firm in which an officer or employee has a substantial interest involving services or property of a value in excess of $500 unless the contract is made after competitive bidding” was loosened tenfold to allow contracts valued under $5,000 to be awarded, without a bid process, to current county employees.

The Board of Ethics declined to weigh in on the idea of increasing the dollar amount.

The $5,000 amount was proposed by Commission Vice Chair Sherman Shiraishi, the 2009 chair and now second in command to new Chair Carol Suzawa.

Section 84-15 of the Hawai‘i Revised Statues, which governs state contracts, caps those awarded to state employees to $10,000 unless there is a competitive bid process and precludes former employees from entering into a contract with the state on the matter they worked on for two full years.

Both county provisions, which do not apply to personal employment contracts, fall under Article 20 of the County Charter — the Code of Ethics — because the awarding of government contracts to either current or recent former employees could touch on ethical issues.

• Michael Levine, assistant news editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or


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