Democrat named in ethics complaint
The Hilo legislator backed a bill that benefits him, says his GOP accuser
State Rep. Lynn Finnegan, Republican House leader, is filing ethics charges against Democratic Rep. Jerry Chang, claiming he sponsored a bill for his personal profit.
Chang (D, Piihonua-Kaumana) was not available to respond.
In her complaint filed with the state Ethics Commission, Finnegan (R, Mapunapuna-Foster Village) said Chang had collected signatures of fellow legislators in support of a bill that would have given a $50 million tax credit to a company that wanted to develop a race track in Barbers Point or Kalaeloa.
"He had a 25 percent ownership in the company that offered to exchange land with the Hawaiian Homelands department for a parcel to house the race track," Finnegan alleged.
In a May 11 letter to House Speaker Calvin Say, Finnegan said Chang violated state ethics law "because he used his legislative position to influence the passage of legislation for potential personal financial gain."
"It is clear that ... Chang knew that SB 1734 (the tax credit bill) would benefit his business associates and himself," Finnegan wrote.
Finnegan added that Chang asked that the bill be withdrawn "only when the media questioned him about his financial interest in the legislation."
Finnegan included in her ethics commission complaint the letter Chang prepared with the signatures of 37 legislators who were asking House and Senate leaders to approve the tax credit.
"These tax credit bills will provide the necessary financial incentive to develop an international motor sports complex in Hawaii," the letter claimed.
Chang has an interest in a firm that offered to exchange land in Hilo with the state for a parcel at Barbers Point that was needed for the race track.
In his letter back to Finnegan rejecting a separate House ethics investigation, Say said, "Chang has, at most a potential and not an actual conflict of interest.
"As you know he did disclose this potential conflict of interest prior to participating in any vote on the measure," Say wrote, noting that Chang had said he would ask to be excused from voting if the matter came up again.
"He should take care, as we all should, to arrange his finances in such a manner as to minimize potential conflicts in the future," Say noted in his letter to Finnegan.
Dan Mollway, ethics commission executive director, said state law forbids him from commenting on Finnegan's complaint.