LIHUE — The Hawaii State Ethics Commission on Thursday released the findings of an investigation revealing a state Department of Land and Natural Resources employee on Kauai likely violated numerous state laws and ethics codes.
Bruce Kelekoma, a building maintenance worker with the DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, Kauai office, admitted to accepting gifts from a coworker that he knew had been paid for with government funds, falsifying documents and variously misusing government time and resources, according to the ethics commission’s report.
Kelekoma is not the only one in his office who has been targeted by the ethics commission. In December, an investigation found three of his coworkers had participated in multiple instances of unethical and potentially illegal behavior, making Kelekoma the fourth Kauai DOBOR employee in as many months to face administrative action for misconduct.
Two of the employees were issued fines, and Kelekoma’s supervisor, DOBOR Kauai district manager Joseph Borden, was forced to resign after it was discovered that he illegally awarded dozens of government contracts to a business owned by his friend and paid for first-class airfare using state funds, among a slew of other ethical concerns turned up by the commission.
Borden was a generous boss. The commission’s investigation found Borden used his state-issued purchase card to buy over $2,700 worth of car parts and repair services for Kelekoma, including four new tires for Kelekoma’s truck, which Borden claimed were for a work truck.
The commission’s report states that Borden used his government purchase card to buy new tires for the truck in January 2012, when the truck was first purchased brand new. Two years later, the truck tires had to be replaced twice.
Borden bought a new set of tires in January 2014. Then, in July of the same year, Borden submitted a procurement document in which he wrote that the truck’s tires “are worn and treads are showing,” but the purchase was made, in fact, for “Kelekoma’s personal benefit,” according to the commission’s report.
In another incident, DOBOR had been tasked with removing a 55-gallon barrel of diesel fuel that washed up on a beach. The fuel should have been disposed of as hazardous waste at an appropriate facility. Instead, Kelekoma — “on state work time, using a state truck” — took the barrel to his family’s land and poured the fuel onto fence posts as a preservative.
Dan Gluck, executive director of the ethics commission, could not confirm or deny the existence of other pending investigations into the Kauai DOBOR office. But in an email Thursday, Gluck said he does not “anticipate any further commission action regarding that office in the near future.”
Based on its findings, the commission concluded Kelekoma “likely violated” Hawaii’s fair-treatment and conflict-of-interest laws. The commission ordered Kelekoma to pay an “administrative penalty” of $4,500 and referred the matter to DLNR officials for further action.
Inquiries on the issue by The Garden Island were met with staunch obstinance by DLNR staff and spokespeople. Board of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Suzanne Case could not be reached for comment, and DLNR public information officials declined to make any substantive comments.
Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.