Over the past 12 months, Hawai‘i government, at all levels, has been rocked by headline after headline, exposing the criminal activity of a wide range of public officials.
Sitting in jail at the moment, or awaiting sentencing, we have a former Kaua‘i County Councilmember, a former Hawai‘i County Councilmember, a former Honolulu police chief and his wife, a former deputy city prosecutor, up to five current and former employees of Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting, a former state senator and Senate majority leader from Maui, and a former state Representative and vice chair of the House Finance Committee from Waipahu.
In addition, there are several top administrators of the City & County of Honolulu under indictment, numerous government contractors who have pled guilty to bribery, and ongoing federal investigations at all levels of government.
The laws broken include accepting bribes to grant building permits, accepting bribes to pass and kill bills at the Legislature, methamphetamine sales, stealing from emergency COVID funding, influence peddling involving non-bid contracts, and other complex crimes too bizarre to describe here.
The above is just a partial description of the elected officials and government employees who’ve been caught in the act and found guilty. It would be naive to think there are not others currently awaiting the next investigatory shoe to drop.
It would also be naive and destructive to believe that all politicians are crooks and/or that government corruption is commonplace.
I believe in my heart that the vast majority of public employees are good and honest people. It is sad and unfortunate that the actions of a few have so tarnished the integrity of the many.
While we may differ as to our “world view” and our perspectives on what public-policy initiatives might best address the challenges facing our community, I believe the number of elected leaders who are literally and illegally stealing from the public trust are an extreme minority.
But no matter how small or how large their numbers, they must be rooted out.
The state Department of the Attorney General and the Hawai‘i State Ethics Commission has set up several ways to confidentially report fraud, waste or abuse involving any government official, government funds, government workers and/or persons and entities awarded government contracts.
• Submit an online complaint at ethics.hawaii.gov/fraud_complaint/;
• Leave a confidential voice mail message at 808-587-0000;
• Email: email@example.com;
• Go to the FBI “tip line,” fbi.gov/tips.
As the saying goes, “If you see something, say something.”
In the meantime, our elected leaders must double-down on implementing anti-corruption measures.
Tightening up the oversight and rules governing non-bid contracts at both the state and county levels and banning fundraising during the legislative session for state lawmakers are two obvious things that need to be done. Requiring full disclosure when any lawmaker at any level introduces, promotes or votes on an issue that impacts their employer or their clients is another essential reform needed now
We need to clean this mess up, and lawmakers, administrators, rank-and-file government workers and private citizens must all step up to make it happen.
Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.
Source: The Garden Island