Are Hawaii Lawmakers Protecting A Lobbyist From the Ethics Code?

Nanea Kalani/Civil Beat

Critics are taking aim at a bill moving through the Legislature that they say is an attempt to shield one member of the now-defunct Mortgage Foreclosure Task Force from state ethics laws.

Senate Bill 893 seeks to retroactively exempt task force members from a conflict-of-interest provision. Critics say the measure also potentially weakens the Ethics Commission's authority by creating a law that sidesteps an unpopular commission opinion.

“Accommodating such after-the-fact amendments would severely undermine the Commission’s ability to effectively administer the State Ethics Code and erode the public trust,” Ethics Executive Director Les Kondo said in his testimony.

But supporters say the bill is more about housekeeping. They say a law passed last year to exempt all task force members from the Ethics Code should have included a retroactive date to cover the entire existence of the Mortgage Foreclosure Task Force, which formed June 3, 2010 and disbanded after June 30, 2012.

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