Ethics panel would be
vulnerable to politics


Senate President Robert Bunda has proposed an ethics panel to handle complaints.

AN ethics committee within the state Senate would duplicate the work of the established and independent Ethics Commission and be subject to political whims that could breach its purpose.

The proposal by Senate President Robert Bunda comes amid allegations of unethical conduct by three senators and Bunda's stated "concern over the public's impression of the Senate's ability to police its own members." Good intentions aside, the suggestion also flows from Bunda's struggle to maintain his leadership position.

Bunda envisions a four-member ethics panel, two Democrats and two Republicans appointed by the Senate president. This would largely place the panel's makeup in the hands of the majority faction and could lead to horse trading of allegiances rather than clean inquiry into ethical issues.

Hearings on complaints could take place behind closed doors, which would negate Bunda's goal of reassuring the public. The public also would not be able to ask directly for investigations, but would have to persuade a senator to file against another member.

While appearing to embrace bipartisanship and public involvement in ethical issues, the proposal has undertones of self-interest as Bunda fights unseating. With Democrats evenly divided over his leadership, Republicans have a rare opportunity to play a role in the Senate's organizational structure. Two of them aligned themselves with the faction of Democrats opposed to Bunda to pass a resolution to select new leadership. Bunda might be courting the others to bolster his position, using the ethics panel as bait.

No one would challenge the need for scrutiny of lawmakers' behavior. However, the state Ethics Commission already has that duty, operates outside the political arena and allows citizens to lodge complaints. Indeed, the commission is now conducting probes of the three incidents involving senators. Self-examination in the Senate would better be focused on averting misconduct in the first place.


Symphony leaders
should be open


Resignations by leaders of the Honolulu Symphony have followed a critical audit.

CLANGING sounds, although muted, can be heard from the chambers of the Honolulu Symphony, reflecting rancor within its leadership. Resignations of prominent board members and the symphony's president followed an audit that criticized the organization's management and leadership structure. An extra effort is needed to bring unmuffled harmony back to this cultural asset of the city.

The verbal audit by Peter Pastreich, former executive director of the San Francisco Symphony, recommended that it create a position of chief executive officer, and former Hawaii first lady Vicky Cayetano was appointed to the nonpaying post at the end of April. She resigned a week later, citing lack of "the support needed to do the job."

Cayetano's sudden resignation came after symphony president Stephen Bloom announced he would resign in June, and it was followed by the resignations of board members Mike O'Neil, former Bank of Hawaii CEO, and Michael Fisch, the Honolulu Advertiser's president and publisher. Carolyn Berry, the board's chairwoman, offered to resign but was talked out of it.

Bloom told the Star-Bulletin's Tim Ryan that Past- reich's audit included "no recommendations for me personally as far as I know," but Cayetano said it was "critical and very negative" of Bloom's management. The audit's contents have not been made public. Symphony management instructed employees not to talk to Ryan.

Bloom deserves an ovation for erasing a $1.4 million deficit after coming to Honolulu from the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra in 2001. Last season, the organization recorded its first surplus since 1990.

Cayetano, a successful businesswoman, says she planned to bring "transparency, more accountability and inclusiveness" to the organization. The handling of the discord surrounding Pastreich's audit is a glaring example of the need for such openness and accountability. The 105-year-old institution should not be a secret society.

Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes
the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek
and military newspapers


David Black, Dan Case, Dennis Francis,
Larry Johnson, Duane Kurisu, Warren Luke,
Colbert Matsumoto, Jeffrey Watanabe, Michael Wo

Dennis Francis, Publisher Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor
(808) 529-4762
Frank Bridgewater, Editor
(808) 529-4791
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor
(808) 529-4768

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor
(808) 529-4748; mpoole@starbulletin.com

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin (USPS 249460) is published daily by
Oahu Publications at 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-500, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813.
Periodicals postage paid at Honolulu, Hawaii. Postmaster: Send address changes to
Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.

| | |
E-mail to Editorial Page Editor

© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com