by Andrew Walden
The Hawaii Department of Health is responding to allegations that the Healthy Hawaii Coalition, a non-profit closely linked to Congressional Candidate and Honolulu Councilmember Tulsi Gabbard and State Senator Mike Gabbard, received a $25,040 no-bid DoH contract “to develop and present an educational program for elementary school children to encourage behavior changes that will result in healthier watersheds.”
Gabbard was the leading Senate advocate of SB2511--this session’s failed push for statewide plastic and paper bag fees earmarked as a funding source for Department of Health ‘watershed protection’.
According to the Gabbard group’s website, “The HHC team has brought The Hawaii Watershed Experience to over 50 elementary Schools and camp programs, reaching over 5,000 students.” Do doubt quite a few voters also saw the presentations—which often feature Mike and Tulsi Gabbard on stage.
In a letter to Hawai`i Free Press, Gary Gill, the Deputy Director for Environmental Health Administration takes issue with a March 21 ILind.com article which was cross linked in the March 21, 2012 Hawai`i Free Press News Read. According to Gill, the HHC contract was awarded through a sealed bidding process. He provides a link to a DoH webpage which he says includes the RFP under which the HHC contract was submitted.
Leaving aside the matter of no-bid contracting, other points in Gill’s letter provide a keyhole view into the world inhabited by the closely held taxpayer-funded non-profits which so often accompany a politician on his or her climb to the top:
…HHC is exempt from registering with the State Attorney General as a charitable organization due to its small size: they normally receive less than $25,000 in contributions annually, and do not compensate any professional solicitor or fundraising counsel.
We understand how Mr. Lind may have been given the wrong impression: the DOH’s Administrative Services Office (ASO), insisted that the [Clean Water Branch, Polluted Runoff Control Program] PCRP publicly post a notice that HHC was awarded a contract, sue to HHC’s connections with State Senator Mike Gabbard and his daughter, Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard. Conversations with the State Ethics Commission on Monday, February 13, 2012, underscored the fact that a public posting was not necessary, since the award was made through competitive sealed bids (HRS section 84-15(a)(2)). However, in the interests of transparency, and due to the DOH-ASO requirement that a Notice to Proceed (NTP) would not be issued unless the award was publicly posted, the PRCP submitted a public notice to DOH-ASO to be posted in the lobby of the DOH’s main office (Kinau Hale) and forwarded a notice to the Ethics Commission, which was subsequently discovered by Mr. Lind.
Senator Gabbard and Councilwoman Gabbard play an active role with HHC, inasmuch as both dress up and act in school plays presented by HHC when their schedules permit. The PRCP is also aware of Mr Gabbard’s presence on the HHC website. However, the PRCP has never discussed HHC’s proposal with either the Senator or the Councilwoman, and neither have has any contact with the PRCP when the HHC’s proposal was being evaluated. Throughout the current contract (11/2009 to 08/2012), [HHC’s Program Director, Ms Alison Riggs] has been the only point of contact between the PRCP and HHC. This is expected to continue during the upcoming contract.
The PRCP is a fully-federally funded program, supported by the EPA’s Clean Water Act. As such, Senator Gabbard has no direct influence over the PRCP’s budget, even with the Senator chairing the Senate Committee on Energy and the Environment. Federal dollars were used to fund the HHC contract. No State funds of any kind (General, Special, etc) were used.
A political watershed is formed when the benefits of incumbency flow down hill to a new generation.
LINK: Healthy Hawaii Coalition – Tulsi Gabbard & Mike Gabbard, HHC Watershed Experience
March 21, 2012: Gabbards get no-bid contract from Dept. of Health
Full Text May 5, 2012: Response from DoH