RFP Posted for Honolulu Ethics Commission Audit

Earlier this week, the request for proposals (RFP) for the audit of the Honolulu Ethics Commission was posted.  The RFP outlines several important issues the auditors should cover, but I have a couple of concerns.

Two inspectors and prior commissioners who recently left the commission are not listed as interviewees.  These people likely have important information that should be considered by the auditor.

The other part is just something that I really don’t understand.  What the heck is “an internal self-control assessment of improvements needed”?  And why is the current executive director supposed to perform this assessment?  If anyone has any clues about this, please shed some light by leaving a comment.

Requests for bid clarification are due December 2, and deadline to bid is December 30.

The RFP is posted on the city’s website.  It’s also available here.

Update November 28.  I found out that the intention of the section on the assessment is to have the executive director perform a “control self-assessment” rather than a “self-control assessment.”  Hopefully that clarification will come out with the addenda on December 16.

Honolulu Charter Commission Discusses Ethics, Police, Fire and Salaries

The Honolulu Charter Commission met on Friday, and it was nice to see more people testifying than during the last several meetings. The commission’s main topics included ethics, salary commission, fire and police.

There are several good ideas contained in the proposals under consideration for ethics reform. One of the best improvements we can make is to have more independence with respect to investigation of waste, abuse and fraud.

The main reason I proposed creating an Office of the Inspector General, proposal #107, is because of the conflict between the city administration, the Honolulu City Council and the Ethics Commission.

For example, the ethics commission was asked to investigate ORI Anuenue Hale and loans from the city that were forgiven by Honolulu City Council Chair Ernie Martin. The mayor, along with the chair, was investigated by the Ethics Commission, and corporation counsel did its own investigation. They would not share that information with the Ethics Commission, however, and since then have made it difficult for the commission to do its work.

An inspector general would be a good complement to our city auditor, prosecutor’s office and the ethics commission. The Charter Commission formed a permitted interaction group consisting of members Broderick, Oshiro and Mulligan to review the proposals related to ethics. It’s not clear, however, how the public can participate in this process, except that emails may be sent to cclcharter@honolulu.gov.

Another important topic is the police department and its commission. Civil Beat did a good job of covering that portion of the meeting in their article Police Reform Gaining Steam At Honolulu Charter Commission. The only thing I would add is a reminder that the police chief is suing the ethics commission, which I believe is wrong.

As for the salary commission, the Charter Commission voted to support the ideas in 43, which would require that salary commission recommendations go into effect within 60 days if they have a three-fourths majority vote. This proposal was sent to the style committee for further work. Proposal 39, which deals specifically with salaries for Ethics Commission staff, was put under the ethics group’s purview. Proposal 41 was withdrawn by the introducer, member Oshiro.

The commission decided to take no action on any fire-related proposals.

The next meeting of the charter commission is set for Monday, January 25, and will include the following topics: Legislative branch, elections, terms of office, finance and corporation counsel. Other meetings scheduled are listed here:  Meeting topics to be covered.

Note the commission will discuss HART and the rail project at its March 4 meeting.

 

Update on Honolulu Charter Commission – Meeting Friday

Every 10 years an appointed commission reviews proposals to change the Revised Charter of Honolulu. The charter is like the “constitution” for the City and County of Honolulu. This is our opportunity to change how our government operates.

The commission has been meeting since March 2015 and received over 150 proposals for changes to the charter. Fifteen of those proposals have been deferred, including proposals that would reduce HART’s authority or limit the rail project. (I’ll discuss those HART proposals at another date. They are not dead.) All proposals have been tentatively categorized by topic to facilitate discussion.

The commission will meet again at 3:30 p.m. Friday and will discuss four of these topics as well as a change to their ethics rules.

Ethics and the Ethics Commission

The following proposals fall under this topic:

  • 15 Require recusal of elected or appointed officials from participating or voting on issues in which they or their families will benefit;

 

  • 107 Create an Office of the Inspector General to replace the Ethics Commission (disclosure – I introduced this one);

 

  • 114 Support the independence of the Ethics Commission by moving it to the Office of the City Auditor;

 

  • 147 Split – 1) Allow public access to Ethics Commission’s rulings, and 2) Gift disclosures; and

 

  • 153 Provide clear standard of conduct, including language about gifts from lobbyists.

 

Given recent reports and concerns about ethics and conflicts between the Ethics Commission and the city administration, it is great that these changes have been proposed and will be discussed. I will look at the proposals more in depth, but I’d like to share a few comments now.

 

The idea of recusal when there is a conflict of interest has been brought up before, and I can understand why #15 was introduced. In the past few years, some councilmembers have not disclosed their conflicts of interest while others have disclosed relationships that are not legally considered conflicts. Improvements to our current system can be made through more education and better enforcement. In consideration of recusal, we need to be careful that constituent groups aren’t left without a voice on important issues.

 

I introduced #107 because of the head butting we’ve seen between the city administration and the Ethics commission. In one instance, it was reported the commission was not able to continue an investigation, because a $600 expenditure was not approved by corporation counsel. The commission is under the thumbs of the administration and gets its funding from the Honolulu City Council, and both sides have been under investigation by the commission. Independence is sorely needed.

 

My proposal needs one change, however. I found out after I introduced it, that the state has a law requiring each county to have an ethics commission. I’m looking at a couple of other cities that have an inspector general and ethics commission and will provide that information to the commission on Friday. The two agencies can complement each other.

 

Salary Commission

The following proposals fall under this topic:

 

  • 39 Authorize the commission to set salary ranges for attorneys who work for the Ethics Commission;

 

  • 41 Authorize the commission to establish salary ranges (vs. specified amounts);

 

  • 43 Require that commission recommendations go into effect within 60 days if they have a two-thirds vote;

 

  • 62 Make commission decisions final without need for approval by the city council or the mayor; and

 

  • 100 Make salary commission recommendations binding.

 

The discussion on these will be interesting.

 

Fire Department and Commission

 

The following proposals fall under this topic:

 

  • 27 Establish a five-year term for the fire chief;

 

  • 37 Establish a five-year term for the fire chief and delete the authority of the Fire Commission to remove the chief;

 

  • 60 Address the use of sirens late at night (deferred):

 

  • 86 Amend the description of the duties of the fire chief and require the chief to promulgate rules for organization and internal administration; and

 

  • 87 Increase the number of members of the Fire Commission from five to seven.

 

Police Department and Commission

 

The following proposals fall under this topic:

 

  • 16 Amend the terms of service of Police Commissioners to ensure broad representation;

 

  • 18 Allow the Police Commission to punish officers for misconduct or bad behavior and allow the mayor to fire the police chief with concurrence of a majority of the commission;

 

  • 22 Establish an Office of the Inspector General attached to the Police Commission;

 

  • 28 Keep identities of complainants against police confidential until the case is completed;

 

  • 31 Authorize the commission to place the police chief on leave due to an ongoing investigation;

 

  • 58 Create an independent citizen agency to review police misconduct;

 

  • 111 Investigate HPD officers based on anonymous complaints and make limited information regarding final disciplinary actions against officers public;

 

  • 147 Treat HPD officers the same as civilians if they commit crimes;

 

  • 151 Increase the commission from 7 to 10 members, limit terms to four years with a maximum of three terms, and require at least three commissioners to have specified qualifications; and

 

  • 152 Improve functioning of HPD and help restore public trust by:

 

  • Authorizing the commission to 1) override a disciplinary decision of the chief if public safety would be compromised; 2) make recommendations directly to the mayor on hiring and dismissing the chief and participate in the chief’s selection; and

 

  • Delete language preventing the commission or members from interfering with the administrative affairs of the police department.

 

Many concerns have been raised in the past few years about the behaviors of some police officers and the chief himself. Several of these proposals are in direct response to those concerns. The Charter Commission may combine ideas of several of them to arrive at an item (or items) to put on the ballot.

 

The agenda for the Charter Commission’s Friday meeting is available at http://honoluluchartercommission.org/images/1-15-16-Agenda.pdf. It provides instructions for testifying. Note that the last page includes topics for discussion at future meetings. Hopefully the commission will set the dates for these meetings on Friday.

 

The Charter Commission’s website, http://honoluluchartercommission.org/, provides other important information. For a list of proposals that indicates which ones were deferred, please visit: http://data.staradvertiser.com/charter/.