Political Radar


May 8th, 2013

Marvin Dang, an attorney who had been embroiled in a extensive battle with the state Ethics Commission over his service on a mortgage foreclosure task force, paid $1,000 in April to settle the dispute, sources say.

The settlement came after the Ethics Commission in April posted an advisory opinion, drafted in September, that concluded that Dang had violated the ethics code because he had been paid by a private organization to lobby on issues that were before the mortgage foreclosure task force. The advisory opinion does not mention Dang by name, which is the Ethics Commission's policy, but sources say it was requested by Dang and outlines his dispute with the commission.

The $1,000 settlement, which appears in a footnote to the advisory opinion, will go to the state's general fund. Ian Lind, a blogger and former Star-Bulletin reporter, was first to report the settlement on Wednesday.

"I'd prefer a `no comment' on that," Dang said when asked about the settlement Wednesday.

Leslie Kondo, the executive director of the Ethics Commission, had ruled in 2011 that members of state task forces are state employees subject to the ethics code. Kondo's ruling prompted state lawmakers to amend the law in 2012, carving out an exception for task force members, but Dang wanted lawmakers this session to again clarify the law so it applied retroactively to the mortgage foreclosure task force. The bill died.

Kondo's public statements on the Dang case were cited by Daniel Mollway, the former ethics director who was fired in 2010, in his March letter to the Ethics Commission urging that Kondo be fired. The Ethics Commission voted unanimously in April to reject Mollway's request.

3 Responses to “Settled”

  1. Dan Mollway:

    In my March 27 letter to the State Ethics Commission, I pointed out that Mr. Kondo wrote in testimony on March 21 submitted to the House Legislative Management Committee as follows: "...it is poor policy... to retroactively excuse one Task Force member's conscious and knowing violation of the State Ethics Code." To repeat, Mr. Kondo wrote this. However, the laws set forth in the State Ethics Code (Chapter 84, HRS) cannot be said to be violated by anyone at the Commission other than a majority of Commissioners--not staff--after a formal, contested-case hearing held by the Commission in conformance with Chapter 91, HRS. No such hearing (hearings are public) has been held finding any task force member in violation of the law. I think a director of the State Ethics Commission that says the law has been violated when no hearing has been held is not qualified to be director. I have heard no explanation as to why Mr. Kondo's statement did not bother the Commission. At both hearings before the legislature on the retroactivity bill, Mr. Kondo was asked as to whether he could state who he meant as to any Commission investigation. Mr. Kondo stated that confidentiality laws barred him from disclosing any names. Saying that a task force member has violated the law (which would be a matter of public record) makes no sense, and flies in the face of the law in Chapter 84, despite what Commissioners may think.

  2. Russell Blair:


    The question of whether a law should be applied retroactively, unless explicitly provided for in the statute, is determined by a court's interpretation of the legislative intent. It's often a flip of the coin for the parties to the litigation. By settling the case, taxpayers were spared the expense of a trial and appeal. Since a court decision would have had no impact beyond the single case - as the new law is now in effect, I thank both sides for being reasonable and reaching a settlement. Thanks.

  3. Dan Mollway:

    Hi Russell: Good to hear from you. The Commission of late has taken the unusual position that they are the arbiters of what is "ethical" in the State--not the State's ethics laws on the books they took an oath to uphold. As you know, ethics cases can be appealed to the Circuit Court and then to the State Supreme Court by respondents. This happened twice in the seventies, and in both cases, the Commission lost. Being "wrong" can cost taxpayer dollars beyond the work of the Commission in working up a case. Thus, in interpreting our State's ethics laws, one must be aware of how a higher court might rule, and the laws involved. I second your comment, as a former director of the Commission, that a settlement in many situations where either the law or evidence is unclear enough is wise, and saves taxpayers dollars, and allows the Commission to put its resources to more important matters.

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