Guidance

June 6th, 2014
By

Staff at the state Ethics Commission has released recommendations on the use of legislative allowances.

State lawmakers receive office allowances of about $12,000 a year. Commission staff has identified several uses that appear to be personal in nature and thus prohibited by the fair treatment portion of the state ethics code.

State House and Senate leaders have told the Ethics Commission that they consider policing the legislative allowances a matter for the Legislature, not the commission.

But Leslie Kondo, the commission's executive director, disagrees. The staff recommendations will be discussed by the commission at its June 18 meeting and have been posted so lawmakers and the public can have time to respond. The commission could issue guidance to the Legislature on the use of the allowances.

Many lawmakers have already complained that Kondo has exceeded his scope and authority on other matters, and, given some of the staff recommendations on the legislative allowance -- like nixing bus passes for session aides or gift cards for state retirees -- will likely view his work here with extreme skepticism.

Do's:

Expenditures which appear reasonably related to a legislator’s official duties and do not appear to be prohibited by the Fair Treatment law include:

1. Office related expenses such as supplies, postage, mailing lists, printing, newsletters, internet and cell phone plans and newspaper subscriptions;

2. Purchase of protocol and ceremonial lei and gifts for persons being honored by the legislature;

3. Room and facility charges for community meetings and functions whose purpose is to communicate with the community and constituents concerning subjects of legislation and community concerns or to educate the community and constituents on matters relating to the legislature, legislative process and subjects of legislation;

4. Parking, mileage, and car rentals when the expenditure reasonably relates to a legislator’s official duties. However, costs for an employee’s or
legislator’s monthly parking at their work location, mileage to and from one’s lodging to one’s work location, purchase of a bus pass for the purpose of commuting to and from work, or rental car costs associated with traveling between one’s lodging and work are personal expenses whose reimbursement from the legislative allowance is inconsistent with the Fair Treatment provision;

5. Organization meeting fees, conference and registration fees when the expenditure reasonably relates to a legislator’s official duties;

6. Travel costs such parking, airfare, taxis, conference and registration fees, hotel costs and meals when the travel reasonably relates to a legislator’s
official duties. However, if the travel cost has been fully reimbursed by another source, then reimbursement from the legislative allowance is inconsistent with the Fair Treatment law; reimbursement for any travel cost which is reasonably related to a legislator’s official duties and which is not fully covered by the other source, is consistent with the Fair Treatment law;

7. Membership dues and fees to organizations whose focus involves state legislatures and governance such as the Council of State Governments and the National Conference of State Legislatures;

8. Reasonable expenses for food, beverages and flowers for opening day; and

9. Reasonable expenses for food or beverages purchased for others (persons who are not legislators or staff) at meetings or functions whose purpose is to communicate with the community and constituents concerning subjects of legislation and community concerns or to educate the community and constituents on matters relating to the legislature, legislative process and subjects of legislation.

Don'ts:

Expenditures which do not appear to be reasonably related to a legislator’s official duties and appear to be prohibited by the Fair Treatment law include:

1. Food or beverages for legislators and staff except when reasonably related to a legislator’s or staff member’s official duties, e.g. purchase of meals for legislators and staff members on cross-over days when session extends through lunch or the evening and the legislator or the staff member is required to be present. Food or beverages purchased to thank or appreciate staff or for social occasions or events such as birthday celebrations, farewell or retirement parties, are personal expenses and are not reasonably related to a legislator’s official duties;

2. Political or charitable contributions;

3. Expenses which are personal in nature such as dry cleaning expenses, transportation costs to and from work (including mileage), and monthly parking costs for employee or legislator parking. If the legislator is a non-Oahu legislator, some of these expenses appear to be covered by the additional allowance for non-Oahu legislators; and

4. Purchase of retirement gifts, staff appreciation gifts, tickets for recreational or entertainment events, bereavement gifts or flowers, flower arrangements to welcome new legislators, and gift cards or certificates for state retirees, other legislators or for a charity.

14 Responses to “Guidance”

  1. hossana:

    Ethics Commission have every right to monitor the disposition of legislative allowances by the legislators. I mean, $12,000, is quite a lot of monies which are tax payers monies to allow for allowances and the legislators want to police themselves. How ironic and corrupt can they be....look what happened with Romy Cachola and how he misused those allowances for his personal use and what's to say other legislators have not been doing the same. Once again, these leaders in the State House and Senate should allow the Ethics Commission to do their job and represent the people in monitoring the use of the legislator's allowances. To do otherwise, is simply a travesty of tax payer's monies. Sorry to say that there is a lack of integrity and character among the leaders in the State Legislature. Nothing more and nothing less.


  2. Johnson:

    I'd be willing to guess, Hossana, that you don't know *any* of the legislators whom you have determined 'lack...integrity and character.' The majority are hard-working, ethical individuals whose reputations, unfortunately, are tarnished by the few (as in your one example, with which I do agree).


  3. hossana:

    2. Then why does the leaders in the House and Senate doth protest the ethics committee getting involved in monitoring the allowances of their respective legislators if they don't have anything to conceal. Just drop it and allow the ethics committee to do their job in serving the public in ensuring that the allowances are being spent or used appropriately. What are they afraid of??? Like I said, if everybody was on the up and up, then there should be no problem with the ethics committee involvement and please don't give me this mumble jumble about jurisdiction. The ethics committee was formed to serve the public in ensuring state officials are doing what they are supposed to be doing.


  4. Tyrion Lannister:

    My understanding is that records detailing the expenditure of legislative allowances are public documents and can be monitored by anybody. And, that is the way it should be.


  5. Andy Parx:

    Dear Ethics Commission,
    We are perfectly capable of overseeing the chicken coop
    Signed,
    The Foxes


  6. innocent observer:

    don't believe in cachola's case the legislative allowances were involved but his campaign funds. he bought a car for his personal use among other personal expenditures claiming that they were for his political campaign.


  7. Especially Incognito:

    "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

    Abraham Lincoln
    November 19, 1863"

    Without ethics, we shall perish from the earth.
    foxes are henpecked. Not as sly as they should be.


  8. Guido Sarducci:

    Rep Tom Brower used his Legislative Allowance to buy the Sledgehammer he used to attack Homeless people:

    http://www.hawaiifreepress.com/ArticlesMain/tabid/56/ID/12813/Food-Flowers-Furniture-Ethics-Commission-to-Look-at-Legislators-Million-Dollar-Slush-Fund.aspx

    Footnote 1) -- The Senate and House clerks provided the Commission’s staff with summaries of disbursements from the legislative allowance accounts that appeared to cover the period of January 2012 to October 2013. The summaries listed expenditures by legislator, the payee, date, and payment description. The Commission’s staff did not review any documents submitted by legislators to support their claims for reimbursement from their legislative allowance accounts.

    * * * * *

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Brower’s sledgehammer attack on the homeless was covered by media starting November 18, 2013 and the Star-Advertiser reported at the time that Brower had been smashing carts "over the past few weeks". This makes it likely that he bought the sledgehammer with State money on or before October 31, 2013. His sudden decision to refund the State for the sledgehammer seems timed to coincide with the Ethics Commission investigation into the misuse of legislative funds.

    May 14, 2014: Rep Brower Billed State for Sledgehammer Used to Attack Homeless, then suddenly decided to buy it back from State


  9. karen:

    Donna Kim used her allowance to buy ipads and other nifty devices. is that ok under the rules?


  10. Guido Sarducci:

    Did Donna Kim give one of the ipads to her son to use at Law School?


  11. karen:

    civilbeat said she bought a microsoft tablet in 2012 then a ipad mini in 2013. Was the tablet not good enough?


  12. Especially Incognito:

    Smartphones don't make a smart person.
    Anyone getting the taste of apple is still naked.


  13. kamaaina808:

    @karen... ever used a microsoft tablet? :-P


  14. Especially Incognito:

    Dell?


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