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Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Ethics: Charter School Commission Exec Funneled Money to his Pet Nonprofits
By News Release @ 4:46 AM :: 2987 Views :: Education K-12, Ethics

STATE ETHICS COMMISSION ENTERS INTO SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT WITH SIONE THOMPSON, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR HAWAI‘I STATE PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL COMMISSION

News release from Hawai‘i State Ethics Commission April 25, 2023

HONOLULU, HI -- The Hawai‘i State Ethics Commission reached a settlement agreement with Sione Thompson, former Executive Director of the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission. The settlement agreement resolves a Charge alleging that Mr. Thompson, while a member of the board of directors of three organizations, took state action affecting these organizations in violation of the State Ethics Code. The Charge further alleged that Mr. Thompson failed to report his interests in these organizations on annual financial disclosure statements.

The settlement agreement requires Mr. Thompson to pay an administrative fine of $5,000 to the State of Hawai‘i. As part of the settlement agreement, Mr. Thompson admitted he violated the Conflicts of Interests law on fifteen occasions. He further admitted that he violated the Financial Disclosure law by failing to disclose his positions on the boards of directors of the organizations his annual financial disclosure statements filed between 2018 and 2020.

The Commission’s decision can be found on the Commission’s website at "ROC2023-02.pdf"

  *   *   *   *   *

Sione Thompson, Former Executive Director, State Public Charter School Commission, Department of Education, Alleged Violations of Conflicts of Interests Law and Financial Disclosure Law

Resolution of Charge 2023-2 (COMPL-C-20-00061)  April 19, 2023

The Hawai‘i State Ethics Commission (“ Ethics Commission”) hereby resolves a Charge against Sione Thompson, Former Executive Director, State Public Charter School Commission (“Charter School Commission” or “Commission”), Department of Education (“DOE”), for alleged violations of the State Ethics Code, Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (“HRS”) chapter 84.

I. Facts

Respondent Thompson admitted and declared, under penalty of perjury, that the following facts are true and correct:

1 a) Respondent Thompson was employed as the Executive Director of the Charter School Commission, Department of Education (“DOE”), from September 2016 through February 2020.

b) After leaving the Charter School Commission, Respondent Thompson was employed as the Deputy Complex Area Superintendent (“CAS”), for the Waianae Nanakuli Complex Area, DOE, from approximately March 2020 until July 1, 2020, when he was appointed to the CAS position. He was employed as the Waianae Nanakuli CAS through December 2020.

c) At all times relevant herein, as Executive Director of the Charter School Commission and as CAS for the Waianae Nanakuli Complex Area, Respondent Thompson was a state employee as defined in HRS § 84-3 and was required to comply with the State Ethics Code.

d) The Charter School Commission authorizes public charter schools throughout the State of Hawaiˈi. Among other things, the Commission approves applications for new charter schools, monitors the performance and legal compliance of existing charter schools, provides technical assistance to charter schools, and acts as a liaison between charter schools and state agencies.

e) As Executive Director of the Charter School Commission, Respondent Thompson oversaw administration of the Commission, including ensuring the Commission executed its responsibilities of authorizing quality public charter schools, overseeing the establishment and improvement of policies and procedures consistent with the mission of the Charter School Commission, developing and managing the budget, and developing projects to help improve the overall quality of the charter school system.

f) In October 2017, Respondent Thompson became a member of the Board of Directors of Hawaiˈi Children’s Action Network (“HCAN”), a private nonprofit organization. Respondent Thompson was not compensated for his service on the HCAN Board.

g) In March 2018, Respondent Thompson entered into a contract on behalf of the Charter School Commission with HCAN to assist in a media campaign promoting early learning. The contract amount was $350,000.

h) As Executive Director of the Charter School Commission, Respondent Thompson took official action affecting the 2018 contract with HCAN on at least six occasions. These actions included participating in a pre-contract meeting with HCAN’s Executive Director to discuss the contract, approving and signing the contract, approving, and signing an amendment to the contract, and authorizing payments to HCAN under the contract.

i) In January 2020, Respondent Thompson entered into a contract on behalf of the Charter School Commission with HCAN to administer a Federal preschool development grant. The contract amount was $50,000.

j) As Executive Director of the Charter School Commission, Respondent Thompson took official action affecting the 2020 contract with HCAN on at least two occasions. These actions included approving and signing the contract.

k) The 2020 contract with HCAN was later cancelled by the Charter School Commission after Respondent Thompson left his position as Executive Director. 

l) As Executive Director of the Charter School Commission, Respondent Thompson took official action affecting the 2018 and 2020 contracts with HCAN while concurrently serving on the Board of Directors of HCAN.

m) In or around February 2018, Respondent Thompson became a member of the Board of Directors of RiseHI (“RiseHI”), a private non-profit organization. Respondent Thompson was not compensated for his service on the RiseHI Board.

n) In June 2019, Respondent Thompson entered into a contract on behalf of the Charter School Commission with RiseHI to create a video playlist consisting of a series of videos depicting motivational stories of successful entrepreneurs and intended to motivate charter school students. The contract amount was $10,000.

o) As Executive Director of the Charter School Commission, Respondent Thompson took official action affecting the 2019 contract with RiseHI on at least three occasions. These actions included approving and signing the contract and authorizing payment to RiseHI under the contract.

p) In February 2020, Respondent Thompson entered into a contract on behalf of the Charter School Commission with RiseHI to provide a range of support focused on increasing student engagement and building connections with distinguished local industry leaders. The contract amount was $150,000.

q) As Executive Director of the Charter School Commission, Respondent Thompson took official action affecting the 2020 contract with RiseHI on at least three occasions. These actions included approving and signing the contract.

r) The 2020 contract with RiseHI was later cancelled by the Charter School Commission after Respondent Thompson left his position as Executive Director. The Commission did not make any payments on this contract.

s) As Executive Director of the Charter School Commission, Respondent Thompson took official action affecting the 2019 and 2020 contracts with RiseHI while concurrently serving on the Board of Directors of RiseHI.

t) In or around December 2018, Respondent Thompson became a member of the Board of Directors of Malu Hakala, a private non-profit organization. Respondent Thompson was not compensated for his service on the Board. 

u) In February 2020, Respondent Thompson entered into a contract on behalf of the Charter School Commission with the National Charter School Institute (“Institute”), which required the Institute to partner with Malu Hakala to develop a training handbook. The contract amount was $25,000.

v) As Executive Director of the Charter School Commission, Respondent Thompson approved and signed the 2020 contract with the Institute and by doing so, took official action affecting Malu Hakala.

w) As Executive Director of the Charter School Commission, Respondent Thompson took official action affecting the 2020 contract with the Institute, in partnership with Malu Hakala, while concurrently serving on the Board of Directors of Malu Hakala.

x) As Executive Director of the Charter School Commission Respondent Thompson was required to file an annual financial disclosure statement with the Ethics Commission.

y) Respondent Thompson failed to disclose his position on the Board of Directors of HCAN on his financial disclosure statements for 2018 and 2019.

 z) Respondent Thompson failed to disclose his position on the Board of Directors of RiseHI on his financial disclosure statement for 2019.

aa) Respondent Thompson failed to disclose his position on the Board of Directors of Malu Hakala on his financial disclosure statement for 2019.

bb) As CAS for the Waianae Nanakuli Complex Area, Respondent Thompson was required to file an annual financial disclosure statement with the Ethics Commission.

cc) Respondent Thompson failed to disclose his position on the Board of Directors of HCAN on his financial disclosure statement for 2020.

dd) Respondent Thompson failed to disclose his position on the Board of Directors of RiseHI on his financial disclosure statement for 2020.

ee) Respondent Thompson failed to disclose his position on the Board of Directors of Malu Hakala on his financial disclosure statement for 2020.

read … Full Report

1 This Resolution does not make formal findings but relies on the facts admitted by Respondent Thompson. 

SA: Former Hawaii charter schools head admits to ethics violations

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