A lack of ethics
Once again the Hawaii County Council has refused to pass Mayor Billy Kenoi’s ethics Bill 181. The mayor has been trying to pass this bill since 2009. This time, the bill was defeated by Brenda Ford, Gregor Ilagan, Dennis Onishi and Zendo Kern.
So what? Does it matter? The short answer is, yes, it matters a lot! The four council members who scuttled the ethics bill disgraced themselves by standing up for county ofﬁcials and employees to continue providing goods and services to the county through their own, or their families’, private companies.
In all U.S. states, these practices could trigger investigations into conﬂict of interest or nepotism or fraud. In Hawaii County, these practices appear to be legal, routine and have been for years, according to Mayor Kenoi.
These practices have long been outlawed in most of the developed world. But, our beautiful island home has a government that operates like a miniature “banana republic,” with political insiders taking advantage of our own citizens.
Some council members and county ofﬁcials appear to believe that we are too dumb to notice that they are playing games with our money and undermining the credibility of our government. I feel sorry for the vast majority of county employees who are very honest people, but must work in a system where some employees are more equal than others.
Fair and open competition in contracting is the best way for the county to obtain high-quality goods and services at a fair price. But how can any private contractor or vendor believe that they can compete, fairly, for business with the county? The existing Hawaii County Code of Ethics allows the county to award contracts to its employees or their families.
Do contractors waste time and money on a bid that they can’t win? Or do they seek assistance from an insider and “pay to play?” The best contractors may decide to not participate at all. This behavior undermines the contracting process, lowers the quality of county projects and results in cost overruns or numerous no-bid contract extensions.
Our Code of Ethics, as it stands, is probably a very corrupting inﬂuence on normally honest and law-abiding citizens. This is a terrible example for our children. Do we leave them with this awful legacy and allow them to think that this is fair and normal human behavior in our country?
Finally, we all know the cost of living in Hawaii is too high, especially for the poor and those on ﬁxed incomes. The Jones Act may be part of the reason, but corruption and abuse of authority increases the cost of government. These costs are always passed on to the taxpayers, which makes it more expensive for all of us to live here.
We need to support Mayor Kenoi in cleaning up this harmful oxymoron called the Code of Ethics. The voters should help four County Council members ﬁnd new jobs, because they don’t understand the contracting process, the need for fairness and the negative economic impacts of corruption on their constituents.
Show up, ‘Fresh’
I am responding to the front-page story in the May 4 Tribune-Herald, “Attendance records improve: Analysis reveals County Council members are showing up, but some still could do better.”
It is refreshing to see that some of our County Council members who represent us are taking this seriously and do what is required. What concerns me is the chronic problem of Dennis Onishi to take this job seriously!
Are the people of Hilo aware that he was brought to the attention of the ethics committee for his paltry attendance issues in the last council in 2012? He is being paid $48,000 per year for a part-time job where he is supposed to show up twice a month to represent District 3 in Hilo, but he continually falls to the bottom of the list in attendance!
It is obvious to me that he is taking this large sum of money and does not think that the people of Hilo will notice that he doesn’t show up for meetings and important votes! If we did that in our jobs, we would be dismissed!
I ask the voters of Hilo and District 3 to consider someone who represents their interests in this upcoming election. Kudos to the other council members who take this honor to represent us seriously and show up for work and care about the issues that are important to their constituents. I think it’s time for “Fresh” to get removed from a position where he is paid to represent us and doesn’t.