Ethics fine amendment
vote rejected

The City Council rejected a proposed City Charter amendment that would have given the city Ethics Commission the power to assess civil fines against ethics violators.

City & County of Honolulu The Council voted 5-4 against sending the proposed amendment to voters.

City Councilman Charles Djou, who introduced the legislation, said the proposal would have given the Ethics Commission another enforcement weapon.

"City Hall has been under a cloud of scandal for so long, and I realize that the public doesn't trust what goes on here at City Hall 100 percent. I really feel that this measure would have been a step in the right direction to restore public trust and confidence," Djou said after the meeting. "By killing it, we're basically saying that the status quo continues to reign at Honolulu Hale."

Voting to approve the measure were Djou, Gary Okino, Donovan Dela Cruz and Mike Gabbard. Voting against the proposed amendment were Romy Cachola, Rod Tam, Nestor Garcia, Ann Kobayashi and Barbara Marshall. Six votes are needed to put the proposed amendment on the ballot.

Djou noted that the measure made it out of committee and previous Council votes with all members voting "yes."

"The HGEA started singing a tune, and the City Council got up and danced," Djou said, referring to the Hawaii Government Employees Association union, which represents white-collar government workers.

Charles Khim, the attorney representing the HGEA, said the measure was unconstitutional because it takes the power to punish employees away from the bosses, which is a core issue of collective bargaining, and gives it to the Ethics Commission.

"The position of the HGEA is not that we want government employees who do wrong to escape punishment," Khim said. "The question is who shall punish them."

The proposed charter amendment originally applied to all 9,000 city employees, but Kobayashi introduced a last-minute change, which was approved, that would have made the proposal apply to elected and appointed officials but not to employees covered by collective-bargaining agreements. Kobayashi said she made the change in a try to save the proposal.

Marshall said she was concerned that the amended proposal would set up two different classes of employees -- one set that could be fined and one that could not -- even though they might do the same job, and that could also make the measure unconstitutional.

The Council also approved a ballot question yesterday that calls for a Charter Commission to be convened to determine if the Charter needs amending.



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