City clerk seeks ethics agency ruling
A review will address the disqualification of Kirk Caldwell from Council elections
City Clerk Denise De Costa has asked the city Ethics Commission to investigate her office's handling of the election filing by Kirk Caldwell, who was subsequently disqualified in his bid for a seat on the City Council.
Caldwell's disqualification left former Councilman Duke Bainum, who lost to Mufi Hannemann in the 2004 mayoral election, unopposed in the race to replace Ann Kobayashi for her District 5 seat.
"All of our actions were appropriate and correct," De Costa said in an e-mail statement to the Star-Bulletin, "but we have referred the matter to the Ethics Commission and have asked them to review the matter and to provide us with recommendations, if any, to improve our procedures and ensure that we are in compliance with city standards of conduct."
City Ethics Commissioner Chuck Totto said he had received the request and the investigation was expected to take at least three months.
"Our review will be to see if there were any ethics laws violated or to give them advice about how they might want to deal with things in the future," Totto said. "The commission has the range of options all the way from no discipline whatsoever to suggesting termination of the employee."
Any penalties would depend on the seriousness of the infraction. Totto's office can only recommend penalties to the appointing authority. In De Costa's case, that is the City Council.
The election chaos began on July 22, the deadline for candidates to declare for office.
Kobayashi's last-minute decision to challenge Hannemann for mayor set off a scramble to replace her on the Council.
Bainum met the 4:30 p.m. deadline. Caldwell agreed to run for the seat at the request of Hannemann, whom he supports.
At 4:29 p.m., Caldwell submitted his petition with 18 signatures. Twenty minutes later, De Costa informed him that only 14 signatures were valid, one shy of the number needed to file. A Manoa resident working in the City Clerk's Office signed the petition to ensure Caldwell had enough signatures, and he was declared a candidate for the race.
Caldwell, the state representative for the Manoa district, asked one of his own supporters to challenge the filing to ensure its validity.
De Costa ruled Friday that Caldwell did not file the necessary paperwork to withdraw from his House race and disqualified him from the Council race. Although there was an issue raised on whether Caldwell had the required number of signatures, De Costa said her ruling made that issue moot.
A second challenge had been filed against Caldwell by Todd Eddins, a Bainum attorney, on behalf of another Manoa resident, Amy Mizuno.
Her filing challenged Caldwell's signatures, his withdrawal and alleged preferential treatment by the Clerk's Office toward an individual candidate.
De Costa said yesterday she had ruled on the Mizuno filing, but the details of that ruling were not immediately available. De Costa did not release details of the ruling last night, saying she was waiting to ensure that the parties involved saw it first.
"We've made our determination on the validity of Mr. Caldwell's nomination and we have answered the relevant candidate objection issues," De Costa said in her e-mail statement.
Eddins said he had not received a copy of the ruling by the end of the business day.