Six Council Members Bought Off by Lobbyists, Key Rail Votes may be Nullified
HNN: Key votes on the city rail transit project and other issues might be invalidated because Honolulu City Council members failed to disclose conflicts of interest after being wined and dined by lobbyists.
City Ethics Commission records show that former council members Romy Cachola, Todd Apo, Nestor Garcia and Donovan Dela Cruz as well as current council members Ikaika Anderson and Ann Kobayashi were treated to meals worth more than $200 each several on several occasions by lobbyists between 2006 and 2012. The city lawmakers then voted on rail transit stations, the rail project and rezoning land but none of them apparently declared a conflict as required by law.
So the ethics commission is now looking into a key issue.
"Whether there are any unlawful gifts that required disclosure and the disclosure did not occur, making council members' votes null and void," said Chuck Totto, executive director of the city Ethics Commission.
Totto said his office has already investigated the votes on about 100 council bills and resolutions by Cachola between 2008 and 2012, and now will review the votes of other members. Cachola has agreed to settle an ethics case with the city for $50,000.
"It's not just, 'Oh, I got caught with a conflict of interest.' It could be I got caught with a conflict of interest and so did a couple of other people and now the bill's void," Totto said.
Some measures in favor of the rail transit project may have so many council members' votes invalidated that they will lack the votes needed to pass.
"The only surprising thing about it is that it's been revealed,” said Cliff Slater is head of the anti-rail group HonoluluTraffic-dot-com. “It's been very obvious to us throughout the whole process that, somehow or another, the vast majority of the council people had been got to."
PDF: 31 pg news release from Romy Cachola
SA: Cachola questions key votes on rail
Related: 'Running Around With Mask and Gun': Romy Cachola Fined Another $50K
read ... Nullified
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Djou Measure Used to Enforce Ethics at City Hall
News Release from Djou Campaign September 30, 2014
Former Congressman Charles K. Djou issued the following statement following the decision by the City Ethics Commission to assess a civil fine against former City Councilmember, and current State Representative, Romy Cachola:
"When I was first elected to the City Council, I was surprised to learn that the City Ethics Commission had no power to issue fines or otherwise enforce ethics rules. Consequently, I introduced and advocated for legislation to give the ethics commission the power to level fines against City officials for violating the ethics code, which was enacted in 2007," stated Djou. "While I am disappointed that former City Councilmember Romy Cachola violated the ethics code, I think it's important for our society to have our elected officials held accountable for their actions. As public servants, elected officials work for the people."
A summary of Djou's work to empower the City Ethics Commission to issue civil fines and enforce City ethics rules can be found here: www.eastoahusun.com/commentary/2008/1/1/strengthening-ethics-rules-in-our-government.html
Djou represented Hawaii in the U.S. House from 2010 to 2011 and served on the Honolulu City Council from 2003 to 2010. Djou's legislation giving the ethics commission the power to level fines has now been applied to two city councilmembers, Rod Tam and Romy Cachola.