by Andrew Walden
According to sources at Honolulu Hale, Mayor Carlisle is pushing for Todd Apo, former Honolulu County Council Chair, to be one of his nominees to serve on the newly-created Transit Authority. Apo is making the rounds speaking to his former colleagues. But before Carlisle acts, he may want to ask himself why Apo so suddenly resigned from the Council last year.
According to Apo’s August 31 resignation announcement, Apo quit because he had been “given another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work here in Hawaii for Disney”—referring of course to the Aulani Resort of Ko’Olina for which Apo now serves as public affairs director – custodian of the squeaky-clean Disney corporate image.
But lurking in the background was an ethics violation and a four year old secret. These burst to the surface February 28—but no Hawaii news outlet has seen fit to report on them. In its Advisory Opinion 2011-1, the Honolulu Ethics Commission found that Apo “introduced two resolutions and a bill regarding the Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary landfill, a subject in which Mr. Apo has a conflict of interest.” In its “finding of facts,” the Ethics Commission explains:
(Apo) does not contest that his private employer, Ko’Olina Community Association, had taken positions over several years to limit the operations of or to close the Landfill. Nor does he dispute that his private employer’s interest created a conflict of interest for him under RCH Sec. 11-102.1c….”
And this wasn’t the first time. The Ethics Commission continues:
In an earlier but nearly identical case, Advisory Opinion 2007-1, the Commission found that Mr Apo should have but failed to file his disclosure of conflict of interest before he voted on a bill….
Mr Apo’s disregard of the Commission’s prior opinion in Advisory Opinion No. 2007-1 significantly raises the seriousness of what could be viewed as a technical violation. That Mr Apo had no explanation for not filing his disclosure until after the vote was taken on the bill raises a question about whether he had much concern for the consequences of violating the disclosure law.
As the Ethics finding points out: “There is no other means for the public to find out if Mr Apo violated RCH Sec. 11-103.” Further, “the Commission’s website displays the redacted version of Advisory Opinion No. 2007-1 that does not identify Mr. Apo by name. Because Mr. Apo failed to follow the Commission’s disclosure instruction made in Advisory Opinion No. 2007-1 and because the Commission will identify Mr. Apo in this opinion, the Commission will replace the redacted version of Advisory Opinion No. 2007-1 with the unredacted opinion.”
The 2011 and 2007 ethics findings involved Apo pushing legislation which would have helped his private employer--the Ko’Olina Community Association—achieve its goals in litigation against the County. That litigation-demanding closure of Waimanalo Gulch—was of course filed by then-Senate-President, now Congresswoman, Colleen Hanabusa. Like Apo, Hanabusa has a long record of conflicts of interest involving her relationship with Ko Olina and its developer, Jeff Stone.
The 2007 decision stemmed from a 2006 complaint filed by “fishermen, boaters, and community members, and EnviroWatch, Inc.” In it they point out that Apo testified in defense of KoOlina’s demolition of a public boat ramp:
Councilmember Apo formally introduced himself, in a general Introduction, to the Commission, by stating: “Good morning, Chair and Commissioners, Todd Apo with Ko Olina Resort and Marina.” Then, when the Commission began to address Agenda Item A83-562, as reflected on page 14 of the official transcript of the hearing, Councilmember Apo addressed Chairperson Sakumoto by stating: ”Good morning again and thank you. Appreciate the opportunity to provide a status report for Ko Olina Resort and Marina.”
Naturally Apo’s KoOlina work involved steaming heaps of garbage as well. The complainants continue:
Apo has voted to set a date for closure of the landfill, achieving what he had hoped to achieve through the lawsuit. Complainants believe this conflict of interest, i.e., serving as Executive Vice President of the Ko Olina Community Association, the organization that has brought legal action against the City and County regarding the landfill, while simultaneously serving as a City Councilmember, voting on bills relating to this issue, is a clear violation of the Ethics laws. Complainants believe that he cannot wear two hats: he cannot serve the people of the City and County of Honolulu in his capacity as Councilmember, while maintaining his position as a officer of the Ko Olina Community Association.
The In addition to making the two decisions public, the Ethics Commission assessed a $500 fine against Apo.
Apo’s resignation forced a $200,000 Special Election for the Ewa-Leeward Council District which was won December 29 by Tom Berg.
Will Apo have to give up his “once in a lifetime opportunity” to serve on the Transit Authority? -- Or will he somehow avoid any conflict of interest while in the employ of one of West Oahu’s biggest developers?
Envirowatch Complaint against Apo: http://www.envirowatch.org/EthicsApo.htm
Apo’s 2007 Violation (still redacted): http://www1.honolulu.gov/ethics/opinions/advisory+opinion+2007-1.htm
Apo's 2007 Violation Un-redacted: http://www1.honolulu.gov/ethics/advisory+opinion+2007-1.htm
Apo’s 2011 Violation: http://www1.honolulu.gov/ethics/advisory+opinion+2011-1.htm
KoOlina and Associates: