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Wednesday, August 30, 2023
Sen Keith-Agaran Resigns--Chased out by Ethics Investigation?
By News Release @ 8:59 PM :: 3119 Views :: Maui County, Ethics, Hawaii State Government


News release from Hawaii State Senate Democratic Caucus, August 30, 2023

Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran (District 5, Wailuku, Kahului, Waiheʻe, Waikapu Mauka, and Waiʻehu) issued the following statement announcing his retirement from the Hawaiʻi State Senate, effective October 31, 2023:

"It has been an honor to represent my friends and family in my Central Maui communities in the State Senate and the State House of Representatives. And it has been an honor to serve with my Senate colleagues, both past and present, the Senate staff, and the people who have worked for me during the time I’ve been privileged to serve. I believe that this decision best serves the interests of the Maui people especially given what they have gone through over the last three weeks, and what they continue to experience. As we know, the Maui community — including members of my extended clan who lived and worked in West Maui — have suffered tremendous losses, including losing loved ones. Some, to this day, are still not identified or found. The choice for me has always been and will always be my family and community, and this decision is consistent with that overriding value."

Senator Keith-Agaran grew up in Paia and Kahului, where he graduated from Maui High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Yale University and a Juris Doctor from the University of California Berkeley School of Law. Prior to serving in the Legislature, Senator Keith-Agaran served as the Director of Labor and Industrial Relations, the First Deputy Director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources and later the Chair of the Board of Land and Natural Resources, and the Deputy Director of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. He also served as Public Works and Environmental Management Director for the County of Maui.

In 2009, upon the passing of former Representative Bob Nakasone, Keith-Agaran was appointed to serve as the Representative for House District 9. He served the people of Maui in this position until 2013. In 2013, upon Shan Tsutsui becoming the Lieutenant Governor, Keith-Agaran was appointed to serve as the Senator for District 5 and has remained in the role ever since. He has been the Vice-Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee since 2018 and previously chaired the Judiciary committees of both the House and the Senate.

In accordance with State law, Democratic Party officers will identify three names that will be transmitted to Governor Green for consideration. The Governor will have sixty days to fill the vacancy.

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News release from Hawaii State Senate Democratic Caucus, August 30, 2023

Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (District 8 – Kauaʻi and Niʻihau) issued a statement today regarding Senator Gil Keith-Agaran's notice of resignation, effective October 31, 2023.

"I have just received a letter dated August 30, 2023 from Senator Gil Keith-Agaran, informing me, Governor Josh Green, Hawaii Democratic Party Chair Dennis Jung, and Maui Democratic Party Chair Stephanie Ohigashi, that he will be resigning from his State Senate seat, effective October 31, 2023.

Although not privy to the reasons for his decision, Senator Keith-Agaran's reasons must have been thoughtfully and carefully considered. Senator Keith-Agaran is a brilliant legislator whose integrity is beyond reproach and his leadership, experience, and calming influence, will be sorely missed in the Senate.”

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Ethics Investigation Targets Sen Keith-Agaran?

HNN Aug 29, 2023: … If he ends up representing fire victims in a lawsuit, experts said that could put him in a position where he’d have to choose between constituents and clients.

“Lawmakers can sue the state, we’ve had plenty of legislators who sued the state in the past,” said Colin Moore, director and associate professor at the University of Hawaii’s Public Policy Center.

“But this is likely to be a massive lawsuit.”

He added if the state is eventually named, there could be concerns surrounding his political ties.

Lee agreed, “Because he’s a state senator, he may be privy to confidential information that the public doesn’t have and he might be privy to use that information for the benefit of his client.”

Robert Harris, executive director and general counsel for the state Ethics Commission would not confirm an investigation was underway but did refer HNN to the Hawaii rules relating to conflicts.

One specific section reads, “No legislator or employee shall assist any person or business or act in a representative capacity for a fee or other compensation to secure passage of a bill or to obtain a contract, claim, or other transaction or proposal in which the legislator or employee has participated or will participate as a legislator or employee”

Experts call Agaran’s position “a gray area.”

“I don’t see that there’s a clear ethics violation here but I think it’s incumbent upon the senator to be very, very careful,” Moore said, adding that Agaran should ask for an official ethics opinion….

read … Lawmaker’s potential role as lawyer for fire victims described as ethical ‘gray area’

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Keith Agaran: “I’m not wedded to staying in the Legislature.”

CB Aug 29, 2023: … Nick Grube caught up with Keith-Agaran Sunday night at a forum for potential clients hosted by Keith-Agaran’s firm and a mainland law firm that is signing up clients on Maui.

Keith-Agaran, who holds an extremely powerful position over myriad state interests as vice chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, has been in the Legislature since 2009, when he was appointed to a House seat. He jumped to the Senate in 2013.

When asked what he’d do if he had to choose between his constituents or his clients, Keith-Agaran said, “I’ve always had a legal practice, my professional responsibilities are to my clients so I would pick my clients.”

“If it gets to the point where it’s just such a distraction,” he told Grube about the role his law firm will play in the fires’ aftermath, “I was appointed to this position, I didn’t run for it initially so I’m not wedded to staying in the Legislature.”

Youch. Somehow, The Blog doubts he made that clear to voters when he was seeking their vote these last 14 years. Perhaps the State Ethics Commission and Senate President Ron Kouchi might not be so quick to rule “no conflict” for someone who openly is putting his personal financial gain ahead of the state’s and constituents’ interests….

read … Now We're Shining A Light On Maui, Too

SA:Keith-Agaran leaving state Senate to 'advocate for Maui victims', LOL!

CB: Maui Senator To Resign Amid Questions Over Possible Conflict Of Interest

SA: State Sen. Gilbert Keith-Agaran of Maui stepping down

MN: Keith-Agaran to retire from Senate 

HNN: Maui lawmaker to resign amid ethical questions about potential role in wildfire litigation

DW: Hawaii Dem State Senator Resigning After Ethical Concerns Over Potential Wildfire Litigation


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