County Council Update

SEEKING A HIGHER LEVEL OF ETHICS: Over the next couple months, I will introduce a number of bills and resolutions designed to raise the level of ethics in our County government.

BILL 37 (DRAFT 2), RE: PREVENTING CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, AND PROHIBITING THE USE OF COUNTY PROPERTY, TIME, PERSONNEL BY COUNTY EMPLOYEES FOR PERSONAL USES. Bill 37 Draft 2 would 1) prohibit County employees and members of their immediate family from negotiating contracts as an independent contractor with the County, except for contracts negotiated for under $50,000; 2) Prohibit County employees from using County property, equipment, time, or personnel for other than for public purposes; 3) Prohibit County employees from representing private interests before any County agency or in any legal proceeding against the County; 4) Prohibit a County agency from negotiating a contract with any person represented by a former employee of the County who while employed by the County, participated in a decision-making capacity in the same or similar matters.

PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO BILL 78, RE: EMPLOYEE EXPENDITURES AND EXCEPTIONS: Bill 78, introduced by Councilmember Ilagan, clarifies that County employees may only use public funds for public purposes. My proposed amendment to this Bill would add accountability and transparency when exceptions are made to the standard limitations for expenditures. This Bill would also limit the purchase of gifts to $100 or less and prohibit using County funds for the purchase of alcohol.

RESOLUTION PROPOSING THE COUNCIL REPRIMAND MAYOR KENOI FOR USE OF HIS PCARD (GOVERNMENT PURCHASE CARD) FOR PERSONAL USES. This Resolution would be a formal reprimand of the Mayor for use of his Pcard for personal uses. The County Auditor reported Mayor Kenoi used his Pcard for personal uses on many occasions. The Director of Finance advised him not to do so.

The County Prosecutor referred the matter to the State Attorney General to determine if Mayor Kenoi engaged in criminal wrongdoing. It is unknown whether there will be a conclusion to the Attorney General’s investigation during Mayor Kenoi’s remaining term in office. The County Board of Ethics deferred the matter of whether Mayor Kenoi violated any of the County’s Code of Ethics and may not make a decision until after the Attorney General concludes his investigation. It is unclear whether the Board will act prior to the end of the Mayor’s term. It is appropriate for the County Council to make a formal statement. Otherwise, there may be no real closure of this ethical matter, and the Council would appear to be treating the Mayor as if he is above reproach.

CHARTER AMENDMENT TO TAKE AWAY FROM THE MAYOR THE POWER TO APPOINT MEMBERS TO THE ETHICS BOARD: Currently there are five seats on the Board of Ethics. At present, the Mayor has only appointed three members, all from Hilo side. I will propose there be nine seats on the Board and that each Councilperson appoint one member, to be confirmed by the entire Council.

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