Ethics panel gains power to issue fines
A new law makes violators subject to a fine of $500
State employees or officials who violate ethics laws would be subject to a $500 administrative fine under a new state law.
Dan Mollway, state Ethics Commission executive director, is praising the new law, saying it adds much-needed authority to existing state ethics laws.
Mollway called the law a milestone in efforts to enforce the state ethics code.
"The new law avoids leaving the enforcement of the state ethics code up to chance," Mollway said.
Mollway said it "makes common sense" to allow the Ethics Commission to be able to fine violators. "The new law will be an effective deterrent again ethical abuses by giving the commission ... the power to sanction violators," Mollway said.
The commission currently can only recommend to agency or legislative leaders that they take disciplinary action against ethics law violators.
Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, Judiciary Committee chairman, said the new law is a help, but she thinks the commission's ability to launch its own investigations is a stronger deterrent.
"The Ethics Commission has always felt that their rulings lacked teeth, but I believe that it is not necessarily the fines, but when the Ethics Commission takes an active interest and does a prosecution, it catches the eye of elected officials," Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua) said.
The measure, Senate Bill 439, was also supported by the League of Women Voters.