By Derrick DePledge
An investigative panel of the Democratic Party of Hawaii recommended different sanctions for state Sen. Mike Gabbard and Rep. Sharon Har over a constitutional amendment on traditional marriage because the panel considered the amendment Gabbard's "second offense."
Gabbard is facing a reprimand, while Har is facing censure, because Gabbard had previously been reprimanded by the party in 2009 for actively working against a civil-unions bill. (A story Friday in the Star-Advertiser incorrectly said he was censured in 2009.)
But an inconsistency in the party's bylaws may turn Oahu Democrats who will review the panel's recommendations in knots.
Democrats used to rank sanctions against members in this order: expulsion -- the most serious penalty -- followed by censure and reprimand.
Gabbard was reprimanded in 2009, which at the time was the least severe punishment available.
But the party amended its bylaws at the 2012 state convention to reverse "reprimand" and "censure," making censure the least severe punishment. A parliamentarian argued at the time that Robert's Rules of Order considers a reprimand more punitive.
The party's bylaws now state that a member who is censured is to receive an official letter from the party, but no further sanction.
In the party's eligibility criteria to run for elected office, however, potential candidates must maintain party membership "without censure" for a minimum of six months before the filing deadline.
The investigative panel's recommendation of reprimand for Gabbard could prevent him, if upheld, from holding party office for up the three years.
The recommendation of censure for Har, if upheld, could come with an official letter and a prohibition against filing for elected office for six months.
The 2014 filing deadline for candidates opens on Feb. 3 and closes on June 3, according to the state Office of Elections, so Har -- if she is censured -- would likely not be prevented from filing for re-election as a Democrat next year.
Some Democrats, however, say privately that the inconsistency in the party's bylaws potentially exposes Har to a more serious sanction than Gabbard.