Rep. Stegmaier feels
vindicated by Ethics
The group says he did not abuseBy Ian Lind
his position when he testified against
the use of a home for weddings
Rep. David Stegmaier did not violate state ethics laws by testifying against the use of an Aina Haina home for a commercial wedding business, or by introducing legislation aimed at limiting similar businesses in other residential areas, the state Ethics Commission says in an informal advisory opinion.
The commission's 13-page opinion, made public this week, does not identify Stegmaier by name, but the veteran lawmaker confirmed he was the subject of the ruling.
"I feel vindicated," said Stegmaier (D, Hawaii Kai). "The charges were specious."
The commission found no evidence Stegmaier abused his position by seeking unwarranted advantages for himself or others.
Instead, the commission agreed with Stegmaier's contention that the application to operate a wedding business in the residential neighborhood "raised issues of legitimate legislative concern."
The ethics complaint was filed by Honolulu attorney John Francis Perkin on behalf of Bayer Estate LLC, owner of the oceanfront home at 5329 Kalanianaole Highway. Perkin's office said he is out of town and unavailable for comment.
Bayer Estate, formed by Susan M. Mirikitani in August 1997, leases the property from a family trust controlled by her husband, Castle & Cooke Vice President Richard K. Mirikitani.
The company's bid to hold weddings in the historic home was approved by the city in 1998. An appeal of the decision, filed by neighbors, is pending in Circuit Court.
The complaint alleged that Stegmaier's personal ties to a neighboring church created a conflict of interest that should have prevented him from taking action on the issue.
The allegation, according to the commission's summary, "appeared to be based on the belief that he used his state position to inject himself into what was essentially a personal matter."
Stegmaier disclosed at the time of his testimony that he is a member of the church, and his wife is the director of its school.
However, the commission found Stegmaier's stated concern over the potential impact of the land use decision was legitimate, and that he acted in his official capacity.
"The commission believed that the fact that the legislator may also have had a personal interest in the matter did not remove that matter from legislative concern," the opinion states.
The commission also noted that legislators are exempted from certain conflict of interest provisions of the ethics law. As a result, legislators are open to allegations of conflict of interest when they attempt to serve their district or constituents on matters in which they also may have a personal or financial interest.
Stegmaier said another controversial wedding business operating in the home of Councilman John Henry Felix has underscored the important issues at stake.
"This matter of the use of private homes for weddings in the East Honolulu area, especially on the water, is an ongoing problem," Stegmaier said. "We need to be vigilant in opposing such abuses of the law."
Hawaii State Ethics Commission