Charter school employee fined $10,000 for ethics violation


By COLIN M. STEWART

Tribune-Herald staff writer

A Connections New Century Public Charter School employee is appealing an ethics commission ruling after being slapped with a $10,000 fine earlier this month.

William Eric Boyd, an administrative assistant at Connections, was found guilty of 20 separate violations of the state ethics code and given the maximum fine allowable by law of $500 on each count, according to the Feb. 8 ruling handed down by the Hawaii State Ethics Commission.

In their decision, the three current members of the panel found that Boyd ran afoul of the state’s conflict of interest law when, acting as an employee of the charter school, he filled out and approved multiple purchase orders for school supplies from businesses owned by him and his wife, Erika Boyd.

Among the first nine charges, ranging from Sept. 12, 2006, to June 29, 2007, the charter school made nearly $6,000 in purchases at Eric Boyd’s request from the Boyds’ Amway distributorship, according to the commission. The purchases covered items such as books, classroom supplies, custodial supplies, cleaning supplies, digital camcorders, fax/copier, and ink.

The commission also found that Boyd was in the wrong when he certified and submitted invoices to Connections in 2007 on behalf of his and his wife’s company for school lunches. On a total of 11 counts, the pair were paid more than $5,000 through Boyd Enterprises, under the names Tropical Dreams, Tropical Dreams Ice Cream, and Just Fabuloso.

“The State Ethics Code prohibits a state employee from conducting government business with himself,” reads a Feb. 11 release from the ethics commission. “The law also is intended to prevent situations where a state employee is able to ‘profit’ from the connections he has with his own state agency by influencing the agency’s decisions. To prevent this, the State Ethics Code prohibits a state employee from representing for pay, a private business in transactions with his own state agency.”

In their ruling, the commission members instructed Boyd to pay the $10,000 fine within 60 days.

Hilo-based attorney Ted Hong filed on Friday an appeal with the Hilo Circuit Court on behalf of Boyd. Chief among his complaints is the fact that the commissioners found Boyd to be an employee of the state at a November hearing in Hilo. As such, he would be subject to state ethics laws.

That finding “has a far-reaching effect for all charter schools,” he said Tuesday. “For three lay people (on the ethics commission) unfamiliar with the mission of charter schools to decide on their function is wrong. … They’re just looking to fit a square peg in a round hole. They don’t care how unique the charter school mission is.”

Additionally, Hong said he would seek appeal on the grounds that his client’s due process rights were violated due to what he says was the extended amount of time it took for the state to investigate and then hold a hearing concerning the ethics complaints.

As for Boyd’s reaction to the commission’s ruling, Hong said the decision had not come as a surprise.

“He was prepared for the worst …” Hong said. “And, obviously, we got the worst.

“You have an individual who everybody recognized did things to keep this charter school going. He was a midlevel manager making a midlevel salary. He did all kinds of things. He drove the school bus. … things that would not be permitted in a DOE (Department of Education) school because of collective bargaining laws.”

Attempts to contact Leslie Kondo, executive director and general counsel of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, were not successful as of press time Tuesday.

In November, Kondo said that Boyd’s was the first contested case hearing performed by the ethics commission since 1985.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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