Mayor Peter Carlisle

BY JIM DOOLEY – The City Ethics Commission says Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle should pay $3,300 to cover his wife’s travel expenses for a trip the Carlisles

Peter Carlisle

took last year to China.

Carlisle sought guidance from the Commission on the matter in May 2011 – well before the June 2011 trip.

“Last May, the Taiwan and Chinese governments invited me as the Mayor, my wife as First Lady, City Councilmember Stanley Chang, and two staff members with the City Office of Economic Development to promote Honolulu in their cities and enrich bilateral interactions during the month of June. The Taiwanese and Chinese generously offered to pay for these trips through a gift to the city,” Carlisle said in a news release today.

“The commission noted that no prior administration consulted with them on this issue and there was no procedure in place to address travel by a spouse of an officer or city council member,” the Mayor said.

Carlisle also told the City Council that his wife would be part of the delegation and the Council voted to accept the travel gifts, he said.

The Ethics Commission announced today it had decided that Judy Carlisle “was not a city officer or employee and her presence with the Mayor during the China trip was not necessary to accomplish a city purpose. “

The Commission recommended that “Mayor Carlisle reimburse the city for the cost of his wife’s China travel — $3,300.

That reasoning did not sit well with the Mayor, who said he will formally respond to the commission by February 23.

“I respectfully disagree with the notion that a spouse’s travel might not serve a public purpose under appropriate circumstances,” Carlisle said.

“The invitation for Mrs. Carlisle did not originate with me or my staff, but with the foreign governments. I understand that international protocol, particularly in Asian countries, considers the mayor’s wife a part of the leadership team of the city,” the Mayor said.

The Taiwanese and Chinese sponsors of the trip felt that “Judy’s presence was important to the donors as they viewed her as the First Lady for Honolulu,” Carlisle said.

He further noted that “prior city officers had accepted similar gifts for travel for themselves and their spouses without ethical repercussions.”

Carlisle stressed that he sought ethical guidance well before the trip began.

“Making sure that all of us in the City and County of Honolulu comply with the city’s ethical standards is a top priority for me,” he said.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com