Ongoing Series { Conflicts of interest in the Hawaii Legislature.

When Hawaii Reps Ask, Say Says 'No Conflict'

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

Editor's note: This is part of a Civil Beat series exploring conflicts of interest in the Hawaii Legislature. Read the related stories.

Hawaii lawmakers stand up and say there may be a problem.

They're not sure if they should vote — one has a grandson at the Medical School, another's law firm is handling a related case, a third has a Peruvian wife.

"No conflict," Speaker Calvin Say tells them.

Again and again this session, the message from Say to his members was: No problem.

Civil Beat analyzed all 105 times a representative stood up on the floor of the Hawaii House of Representatives to ask for a ruling on a possible conflict of interest through the 2011 session's first 51 days.1

Ninety-seven times they were met with a "no conflict" ruling from either Say or Vice Speaker Joey Manahan, who presides over the chamber when Say cannot.

Say found a conflict only in the most obvious examples: seven cases involving a lawmaker who had already been appointed to the quasi-judicial Public Utilities Commission and an eighth where an attorney specifically asked to be excused from voting because his partner lobbied the bill in question.

His counterpart in the Senate, Shan Tsutsui, faced five conflict questions. Just one senator was excused from voting due to a conflict of interest this session.

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