BY JIM DOOLEY – A planned dinner for Hawaii legislators and staff attending a conference in San Antonio, Texas was cancelled this week after Ethics Commission director Les Kondo said the event would violate the state Ethics Code.
Invitations to the dinner were sent to Hawaii legislators and staffers attending the National Conference of State Legislators in Texas. Hosts of the event were the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, Outrigger Enterprises, Hawaii Medical Services Association, Island Insurance, Coca Cola and the Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel law firm.
In a letter yesterday to state Senate President Shan Tsutsui and House Speaker Calvin Say, Kondo said the event was cancelled after he told a Chamber of Commerce executive that the the Ethics Code “likely did not allow legislators or staff to accept the dinner.”
The advice was given after Kondo learned the per-person value of the dinner exceeded the $25 threshold for free gifts established by the commission and repeatedly enforced by Kondo when the Legislature was in session earlier this year.
The dinner was to have been held at the Silo Elevated Cuisine restaurant, an upscale San Antonio eatery.
“We understand that many of the legislators and staff who had intended to attend the dinner were disappointed,” Kondo wrote.
“Given the per person cost of the dinner and the fact that the host organizations are involved in lobbying activities, in our opinion there appeared to be a reasonable inference that the dinner was intended to influence or reward the legislators or staff,” Kondo wrote.
Legislators bridled earlier this year at Kondo’s prohibitions of similar gift offers and attempted unsuccessfully to amend the Ethics Code.
At one point, a proposed amendment would have allowed acceptance of any gift worth $200 or less even when it could “reasonably be inferred that the gift is intended to influence the legislator or employee in the performance of the legislator’s or employee’s official duties or is intended as a reward for any official action.”
The NCSL convention began Monday and ends tomorrow.
Efforts today to determine how many Hawaii legislators and staffers are attending were unsuccessful.