Ethics complaint rejected; councilman recuses himself

LIHU‘E — The county Board of Ethics has dismissed a complaint filed against a Kaua‘i County Council member concerning a possible conflict of interest.

Councilman KipuKai Kuali‘i in May denied allegations that he violated an ethics provision in the County Charter by participating in a discussion involving funding for the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney on April 19.

OPA distributes federal monies — in the form of Victim of Crime Act assistance grants — to the YWCA, where Kuali‘i serves as the director of operations.

OPA and YWCA officials have seconded Kuali‘i’s assertion that there was no conflict of interest.

To facilitate the discussion, The Garden Island filed a complaint with the Board of Ethics over Kuali‘i’s participation in the budget discussion. That complaint was heard July 8.

In a July 12 letter, Ethics Board Chair Paul Weil said the board reviewed the information contained in the complaint. Not finding “any basis for further action,” the board “formally rejected” the complaint.

In a July 5 memo from Kuali‘i to Council Chair Jay Furfaro — a communication set to be heard by the full council at its meeting today — Kuali‘i says he has a possible conflict of interest concerning two agenda items:

• Communication 2011-204 in part requests council approval to apply for, receive and expend federal funds from the Crime Victim Assistance Grant for the Kaua‘i Victim of Crime Act Expansion Program.

• Communication 2011-205 in part requests council approval to apply for, receive and expend state funds from the Victim Witness Assistance Program Grant for the continuation of the Kaua‘i Victim Witness Program.

“I am recusing myself from deliberations on C 2011-204 and C 2011-205 due to my employment with the YWCA,” Kuali‘i said in the memo. “The YWCA is a participating agency of the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Kaua‘i VOCA Expansion Program and Victim Witness Assistance Program.”

The councilman cites Charter Section 20.04B as the reason to provide “written disclosure on the record of a possible conflict of interest” on the two communications.

When asked in May about the possible conflict of interest concerning his participation in the discussion involving OPA funding, Kuali‘i called into question the applicability of this particular charter provision.

Charter Section 20.04B states that any elected official, appointed officer, employee, or any member of a board or commission who possesses or acquires such interest as might reasonably tend to create a conflict with his duties or authority, or who is an owner, officer, executive director or director of an organization in any matter pending before him shall make full disclosure of the conflict of interest and shall not participate in said matter.

“They mean the board of directors — the people who make the big decisions about the direction of the agency or the organization,” Kuali‘i said in May. “I’m not the executive director … I’m not on the board. I don’t make any decisions of policy or the overall agency decisions as far as where we go to solicit funding.”

Kuali‘i said at the time that he does not believe he committed an ethics violation by participating in OPA’s budget review session or any other part of the budget talks. He noted that he recused himself from budget deliberations on the YWCA Family Violence Shelter and the YWCA Sexual Assault Treatment Program line items, due to his employment.

He did not return a message left Wednesday evening seeking comment.

Other board business

In other Board of Ethics business discussed at its monthly meeting, the board unanimously approved its examination of the Kaua‘i County Council’s confirmation of Julie Simonton as the Engineer appointee to the Board of Appeals.

The review is standard procedure under the Kaua‘i County Charter, which requires that all members of boards and commissions file a Disclosure Statement with the Board of Ethics within 30 days of assuming office for their review.

In other business, the board in an executive session asked questions of Patrick Meyer and his spouse, Diane Leiding, island residents and owners of the Dilly Dally House, a B&B in Kapa‘a. The couple alleges that a county employee is misusing public resources and access in attempting to influence the outcome of a pending licensing of their transient vacation rental.

The couple filed the complaint in April, and allege that the employee is approaching guests of their B&B and that they have nothing to do with the licensing issue.

This complaint, discussed in executive session, is under investigation by the Board of Ethics. Further information from the board will be unavailable until the issue is resolved.

The board’s next meeting will be at 9 a.m. Aug. 12 in Liquor Conference Room 3 of the Mo‘ikeha Building.

Persons wanting to submit comments or make an official complaint can contact the Board of Ethics through Barbara Davis, Office of Boards & Commissions, 241-4919, or bdavis@kauai.gov.

Visit www.kauai.gov to view today’s council meeting.

• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, contributed reporting for this article.

0 Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.