Saturday, October 16, 1999

State transit director’s
ethical infractions

Bullet The issue: Transportation Director Kazu Hayashida awarded contracts to a firm where his wife is employed.
Bullet Our view: Hayashida seems to need a refresher course in the state ethics code.

State Transportation Director Kazu Hayashida has been in government a long time, but he hasn't learned much about the ethics law. Last month he selected the engineering firm KAI Hawaii Inc. for a $1.8 million contract for bridge improvements at Honolulu Airport. The company is owned by his son, Ken.

Art Attorney General Earl Anzai refused to process the contract, explaining that Hayashida's action gave the appearance of a conflict of interest even though he was cleared by the Ethics Commission. Hayashida said he would no longer handle contract selections involving his son's company.

Now it's been learned that the transportation director awarded two contracts to another engineering firm, Belt Collins Hawaii, where his wife works as an administrative assistant. One contract, for $202,000, was for a master plan and environmental study of an airport at Upolu Point on the Big Island. The other was for $300,000 to design a highway landscape management system. Hayashida said through a spokeswoman that he was not aware that the award was a conflict of interest under the state ethics code.

During the Waihee administration, the state finance director, Yukio Takemoto, resigned under criticism for awarding several nonbid contracts to a computer company headed by a friend. Takemoto was also criticized for spending money on a project that had been rejected by the Legislature.

The Cayetano administration hasn't had to deal with such a scandal to date, although a major supporter of the governor received a nonbid contract to build a school in Kapolei. Cayetano defended the award, saying it was a good deal for the state. But if the developer was doing the state a favor, what did he ask for in return?

Attorney General Anzai made the right call in rejecting the contract that Hayashida awarded to his son's company. As it turned out, however, this wasn't Hayashida's only ethical problem.

The transportation director says he will remove himself from final contract selections involving his wife's company. Perhaps a few instructional sessions with the Ethics Commission would be in order.


Hazardous duty
for U.N. civilians

Bullet The issue: Thirteen U.N. civilian staff members have been killed this year.
Bullet Our view: The U.N. should demand that governments provide protection for its workers.

WORKING for the United Nations can be hazardous to your health. So far this year, 13 U.N. civilian staff members have been killed. In 1998, 24 were killed. This week alone, three were killed and seven taken hostage.

Carol Bellamy, executive director of UNICEF, the children's emergency fund, called the latest killings "part of a contemporary and continually expanding pattern in which humanitarian workers are being identified and targeted for death."

In one case, the UNICEF representative in Burundi was executed by Hutu rebels, along with the logistics officer of the World Food Program. In another, a Bulgarian national reporting for his first day of duty with the U.N. civilian mission in Kosovo was beaten and shot to death in Pristina after speaking to ethnic Albanians in the Serbian language.

These killings are the consequence of assigning more U.N. personnel to war zones where militant groups ignore international norms of protecting U.N. civilian and other humanitarian workers.

Bellamy expressed outrage over the situation and demanded a "sea change" in the way U.N. personnel are protected. The most obvious tactic would be for the U.N. to refuse to assign its workers in areas considered dangerous unless the government there gave convincing assurances that it would provide protection.

However, in many volatile situations no such assurances can be given. There is no simple solution to this problem. In some cases it may be possible to provide security for the workers, but often the expense would be prohibitively high.

The humanitarian work of UNICEF and other relief agencies is important, but staff members should not be placed in situations where their lives are clearly at risk.

Those who are killed are martyrs of the battle to alleviate suffering. Although additional precautions may be possible, more martyrs are likely as the U.N. continues to send its workers into harm's way.

The award of this year's Nobel Peace Prize to Doctors Without Borders, a volunteer organization that has tended the sick and wounded all over the world, often in war zones, provides deserved recognition to courageous and dedicated physicians.

Doctors Without Borders, organized in 1971 by 10 French doctors, has more than 2,000 medical professionals working in 80 countries. In the years since its founding, the group has sent relief teams to disaster areas in Nicaragua, Vietnam, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kosovo and now East Timor.

All those who risk their lives to help people in need have earned similar honors.

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