REPORT FROM THE HONOLULU CITY ETHICS COMMISSION – In response to complaints, the Honolulu Ethics Commission found that Albert Tufono, former Deputy Director, City Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks), used his official City position to obtain preferential treatment from Parks employees. Mr. Tufono, who retired from the City in February 2013, admitted his misconduct and agreed to pay a $2,000 civil fine.
Mr. Tufono sent at least 10 email requests over a one-year period in 2011 and 2012 to Parks recreation directors for permits assigning and scheduling gyms and ball fields at City parks to sports teams and leagues he coached, teams his sons played on, and a hula halau in which his daughter was a student. He was successful in obtaining the fields and gyms in most cases.
In one email, Mr. Tufono bypassed the Parks’ chain of command and asked a park maintenance employee, who was a personal friend, to dump dirt for a baseball diamond that his son would soon be playing on.
Mr. Tufono admitted that he knew his use of the prestige of his office and other City resources for his personal benefit was prohibited. He was also warned against such misconduct by a Parks staff member, a Deputy Corporation Counsel, and the Parks Director. Yet he continued to request field and gym assignments for his personal benefit until a second warning from the Parks Director. Because he was the Deputy Director, he had a captive audience of Parks employees who had to follow his requests, while members of the public had no such advantage.
The Commission looks at a number of factors in deciding on a civil fine. The Commission stated “The most significant aggravating factor in this case is that Mr. Tufono knew throughout that requesting and obtaining [Parks] fields and gyms in his role as Deputy Director was prohibited. . . . [H]e persisted in his course of action for a year. He took no action to correct his misconduct until the second directive from the Director in March 2012. Thus, the Commission concludes that Mr. Tufono’s misconduct was intentional. Furthermore, Mr. Tufono is the second highest officer in [Parks] and should have been setting a positive, rather than a negative, example of ethical behavior.”
The Commission speaks through its advisory opinions and staff is not allowed to comment on an opinion.