REPORT FROM THE CITY ETHICS COMMISSION – At its December 19, 2011 meeting, the Honolulu Ethics Commission allowed Special Events Coordinator Patty Teruya to resign from her job rather than face a contested case hearing on multiple counts of abuse of her government position and city resources.
The Commission deemed Ms. Teruya’s alleged violations so “numerous and egregious” as to make her “unfit for continued employment with the city” if proved.
Earlier this year, based on an investigation by the Commission’s staff, the Commission found probable cause that Ms. Teruya:
- Misused her city computer privileges by accessing 2,135 non-work related websites over a two-month period;
- Sent and received 174 non-work related emails within the span of four months to support her campaign for Council, as well as the campaigns of city and state politicians; to conduct job searches for her boyfriend; to sell her boat; and for personal shopping;
- Exploited her authority as Special Events Coordinator over non-profit organizations and vendors to make them submit letters of recommendation to bolster and advance her city career; and
- Endorsed her close friend for service contracts for at least eight city sponsored events to the exclusion of other contractors.
“These violations are some of the most blatant I’ve seen in the city, and happened after the Commission staff, her department head and 2 other city agencies told her not to misuse public resources for her own benefit”said Chuck Totto, the Executive Director and Legal Counsel for the Commission. Totto also expressed his concern that city law does not allow the Commission to impose civil fines directly on civil service employees who abuse their power. “Without civil fines, there is no process to make the public whole for extreme misconduct by employees like Ms. Teruya. The best we could do was to drum her out of her city job.”
A detailed account of Ms. Teruya’s alleged misconduct is available in Advisory Opinion No. 2011-8 at http://www1.honolulu.gov/ethics/ecnos10399etseqadvisoryopinionno20118redactedfinal1.pdf.
The Commission speaks through its advisory opinions and staff is not allowed to comment on an opinion. Questions about the Commission and its process may be directed to Chuck Totto at firstname.lastname@example.org.