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Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Ethics: Top HTA Execs Busted Taking Travel Upgrades
By News Release @ 12:20 AM :: 3291 Views :: Ethics, Tourism

From Hawaii State Ethics Commission December 8, 2017

The State’s travel policies are particularly important for HTA personnel, because HTA awards contracts to – and thus takes official action regarding – multiple airlines:

- In 2014, HTA reported a contract with JAL valued at more than $1,000,000 over the life of the contract. HTA, 2014 Annual Report to the Hawai‘i State Legislature, p. 52.

- In 2014, HTA reported a contract with Hawaiian Airlines valued at more than $100,000. HTA, 2014 Annual Report to the Hawai‘i State Legislature, p. 52.

- In 2015, HTA reported a contract with Hawaiian Airlines valued at more than $1,000,000 over the life of the contract; two additional contracts with Hawaiian Airlines valued at more than $100,000 each; and contracts with Alaska Airlines and Virgin America valued at more than $100,000 each. HTA, 2015 Annual Report to the Hawai‘i State Legislature, p. 51.

- In 2016, HTA reported a contract with Virgin America valued at more than $100,000. HTA, 2016 Annual Report to the Hawai‘i State Legislature, p. 51.

2017-3 -- George Szigeti, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hawaii Tourism Authority

$1,750 Penalty

c. Respondent Szigeti and other HTA personnel are required to travel for state business in the performance of their official duties.

d. On all flights referenced herein, Respondent Szigeti was traveling in the performance of his official duties.

e. According to policy and practice, all air travel and hotel arrangements are booked and paid by HTA. Air tickets are reserved and paid at the economy fare

f. On the following occasions, Respondent Szigeti accepted “courtesy” upgrades to Business Class when traveling on state business:

i. Respondent Szigeti accepted an unsolicited upgrade to Business Class from Japan Airlines (“JAL”) on a round-trip flight from Honolulu to Tokyo, Japan, on August 31, 2015 (returning on September 4, 2015), as well as access to JAL’s premier class lounge; and

ii. Respondent Szigeti accepted an unsolicited upgrade to Business Class from JAL on a round-trip flight from Honolulu to Guangzhou, China (via Tokyo), on October 10, 2015 (returning on October 16, 2015).

iii. Each of the above travel upgrades accepted by Respondent Szigeti had a value in excess of $200.

g. Respondent Szigeti did not report the above flight upgrades that he accepted by filing a Gifts Disclosure Statement with the Commission by the statutory deadline of June 30, 2016 (to cover the reporting period of June 1, 2015 through June 1, 2016).

2017-4 -- Randolf Baldemor, Chief Operating Officer, Hawaii Tourism Authority

$6,000 Penalty

f. On the following occasions, Respondent Baldemor accepted courtesy upgrades to Business Class when traveling on state business:

i. Respondent Baldemor accepted an upgrade to Business Class from Japan Airlines (“JAL”) on a round-trip flight from Honolulu to Tokyo, Japan, on August 31, 2015, returning on September 4, 2015. The ticket came with access to JAL’s premier class lounge, and Respondent Baldemor accessed the lounge on his way to Japan and again returning from Japan.

ii. Respondent Baldemor accepted an upgrade to Business Class from JAL on a round-trip flight from Honolulu to Guangzhou, China (via Tokyo) on October 10, 2015, returning on October 16, 2015. The ticket came with access to JAL’s premier class lounge, and Respondent Baldemor accessed the lounge on his outbound and return trips.

iii. Respondent Baldemor accepted an upgrade to Business Class from China Airlines on a round-trip flight from Honolulu to Hong Kong (via Tokyo and Taipei) on February 27, 2016, returning to Honolulu on March 5, 2016.

iv. Respondent Baldemor traveled from Honolulu to London, England, on May 7, 2016; he left Frankfurt, Germany, on May 13, 2016 and returned to Honolulu on May 14, 2016. Rather than taking the more direct travel route to Europe from Honolulu – that is, flying roughly 8,000 miles via the continental United States – Respondent Baldemor routed his travel via Japan, a route of roughly 10,000 miles, and all “comparable” flights used to justify the purchase of the flight (as required by the State) were via Japan rather than via the continental United States. Pursuant to Respondent Baldemor’s direction, an HTA administrative assistant solicited a flight upgrade for him from JAL; Respondent Baldemor accepted upgrades to Business Class from JAL from Honolulu to Tokyo and Tokyo to Honolulu, and accepted an upgrade to premium economy on the flights from Tokyo to London and from Frankfurt to Tokyo. The tickets came with access to JAL’s premier class lounge, and Respondent Baldemor accessed the lounges four times along the journey – twice on the way to London (on May 7 and May 9, 2016), and twice on the way back from Frankfurt (on May 13 and 14, 2016).

v. Respondent Baldemor accepted an upgrade to Business Class from JAL on a flight from Honolulu to Hong Kong (via Tokyo) on May 22, 2016; apparently as part of the same itinerary, he accepted upgrades to Business Class on a flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo on May 25, 2016, and on a flight from Osaka to Shanghai, China, on May 29, 2016, after which he returned to Honolulu (in coach) on June 1, 2016. The tickets came with access to JAL’s premier class lounge, and Respondent Baldemor accessed the lounges four times along the journey – twice on the way to Hong Kong (on May 22 and 23, 2016), once on the way from Osaka, Japan, to Shanghai (on May 29, 2016), and once on the way from Tokyo to Honolulu (on June 1, 2016). Pursuant to Respondent Baldemor’s direction, an HTA administrative assistant solicited the flight upgrades for him from JAL.

vi. Respondent Baldemor accepted an upgrade to Business Class from Air China on a round-trip flight from Honolulu to Beijing, China, on June 11, 2016, including an interim leg from Hong Kong to Beijing on June 18, 2016. vii. Each of the above travel upgrades accepted by Respondent Baldemor had a value in excess of $200.

g. Respondent Baldemor also received a courtesy upgrade from Starwood Hotels during a three-night stay in March 2016. This upgrade was valued at approximately $150.

h. Respondent Baldemor did not report any of the above flight upgrades that he accepted by filing a Gifts Disclosure Statement with the Commission by the statutory deadline of June 30, 2016 (to cover the reporting period of June 1, 2015 through June 1, 2016).

2017-5 -- Jadie Goo, Director of Marketing for China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, & Southeast Asia, Hawaii Tourism Authority

$2,000 Penalty

d. On the following occasions, Respondent Goo accepted “courtesy” upgrades to Business Class when traveling on state business:

i. Respondent Goo accepted an upgrade to Business Class from China Airlines on a round-trip flight from Honolulu to Shanghai, China (via Taipei) on November 15, 2014, returning on November 30, 2014, for sales visits in Taipei, Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou.

ii. Respondent Goo accepted an upgrade to Business Class from Japan Airlines (“JAL”) on a one-way flight from Honolulu to Guangzhou, China (via Tokyo, Japan) on October 10, 2015.

iii. Respondent Goo accepted an upgrade to Business Class from China Airlines on a round-trip flight from Honolulu to Hong Kong (via Tokyo and Taipei) on February 27, 2016, returning to Honolulu on March 5, 2016 for sales visits and business meetings in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Beijing, and Taipei.

iv. Respondent Goo received an upgrade to Business Class from JAL on a flight from Shanghai to Tokyo on June 1, 2016.

v. Respondent Goo solicited two of the above-referenced flight upgrades from the airline.

vi. Each of the above travel upgrades accepted by Respondent Goo had a value in excess of $200.

e. Respondent Goo also accepted a “courtesy” upgrade from Starwood Hotels during a three-night stay in March 2016. This upgrade was valued at approximately $150.

f. Respondent Goo did not report any of the above flight upgrades that she accepted by filing Gifts Disclosure Statements with the Commission by the statutory deadlines of June 30, 2015 (to cover the reporting period of June 1, 2014 through June 1, 2015), June 30, 2016 (to cover the reporting period of June 1, 2015 through June 1, 2016), or June 30, 2017 (to cover the reporting period of June 1, 2016 through June 1, 2017).

2017-6 -- David Uchiyama, former Vice President of Brand Management, Hawaii

$2,500 Penalty

c. On the following occasions, Respondent Uchiyama accepted "courtesy" upgrades to Business Class and First Class when traveling on state business:

i. Respondent Uchiyama accepted an upgrade to Business Class from China Airlines on a round-trip flight from Honolulu to Taipei on November 15, 2014, returning on November 26, 2014. Respondent Uchiyama directed his subordinate to solicit these upgrades for himself and the subordinate.

ii. Respondent Uchiyama accepted upgrades to Business Class from China Southern Airlines on a flight from Taipei to Guangzhou, China on November 19, 2014.

iii. Respondent Uchiyama accepted upgrades to First Class from Air China on flights from Guangzhou to Beijing, China on November 20, 2014 and from Beijing to Shanghai, China on November 24, 2014. Respondent Uchiyama directed his subordinate to solicit these upgrades for himself and his subordinate.

iv. Each of the above travel upgrades accepted by Respondent Uchiyama had a value in excess of $200.

v. Respondent Uchiyama did not report any of the above travel upgrades that he accepted by filing a Gifts Disclosure Statement with the Commission by the statutory deadline of June 30, 2015 (to cover the reporting period of June 1, 2014 through June 1, 2015). 

---30---

SA: Tourism officials fined a total of $12K

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