***Commentary*** Auntie Emily’s Ethics Violation On Her Birthday, Curtis’ Suspension, And My Own ‘Guinea Pig Diary’


Emily Naeole

Wow, what a heavy week.  Yesterday was Puna Councilwoman Emily Naeole’s birthday and the county Board of Ethics ruled 4-1 she violated the Ethics Code.  Her violation is for giving the thumbs-down gesture to a testifier during the June 16 County Council meeting in which the highly publicized reorganization occurred.  Also,  yesterday Curtis Narimatsu, a friend whose historical writings are regularly published here as Dispatches From Curt  guest columns, has been suspended from his law practice.

Curtis Narimatsu

Curtis Narimatsu

According to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) to suspend Narimatsu.  ODC petitioned the court that Narimatsu received 26 complaints in the last two years, with 14 complaints made this year. Narimatsu agreed to represent clients, accepted a reported $15,535, failed to deposit funds into a client trust account, and failed to communicate with the clients or complete the legal services for which he was hired, ODC reportedly told the court.  If Narimatsu wishes to comment on his suspension, he is welcome to submit a guest column here.  The same invitation is extended to Auntie Emily — if she would like to comment on the Board of Ethics ruling yesterday, or on any issue that she or the rest of the County Council is facing.Previously I extended an invitation through Council Aide Gwen Kupahu for Emily to contribute writings to this blog, but I’m not certain she actually received the message and knows she is welcome to offer her perspective here anytime.

Joyce Folena and Gregory Smith submitted a total of three ethics complaints against Emily.  The Ethics Board rejected a second complaint alleging Emily prayed over a testifier during a Council meeting. The third complaint recalls the 2008 Council meeting in which she threw a pen in the course of discussing the proposed West Hawaii Civic Center. That complaint will be taken up at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009 in the Liquor Control Room in the Hilo Lagoon Centre.

In the case of Curtis, I honestly don’t have enough information to make an intelligent comment.  Being that on this blog he acts as, not a lawyer but as a historian and interpreter of historic figures — sports, cultural and political, I’m inclined to continue running his columns.  Regarding Emily, well, having worked alongside her as her legislative assistant, I know how much she prides herself on being such a maverick.  She is strong in her convictions, and that makes her all the more controversial as an elected official.  I’ve reminded her in the past that she represents a truly diverse district, of not just Christian fundamentalists, but people from ALL walks of life — with various religions and ideologies, from hedonism to urophagia.  More so than any other district on the island I think, the Puna representative must be truly open-minded and indulgent of the diverse personalities.  As difficult as it may be, Auntie needs to grasp that fact, or constituents who feel disenfranchised by her will continue to take her to the Ethics Board. I feel for Auntie, I really do, because I know she is a tireless worker for Puna. Watching Big Island Video News’ coverage of the Ethics hearing yesterday, I felt a lot of empathy and compassion for her, when she told of how difficult it is to receive such scrutiny and criticism from the public.  I certainly wouldn’t care to live in a fish bowl, like politicians do.

I have to tell you, honestly, it is difficult for me to offer any reckoning of either Emily or Curtis, in the same week that a certain someone has been hounding me with judgment of criticism about my blog and my reporting and writing, or lack thereof.  I realize, just like being a lawyer and a politician, a writer must have “thick skin.” But in this blogging life, sometimes, this week especially, I feel like I not only need thick skin, but a bullet-proof vest — certainly some kind of protection from the emotional bombs that get dropped or the vomit that spews forth on occasion.

Needless to say, last night, watching The Colbert Report, I found some comic relief in an interview Stephen Colbert had with A.J. Jacobs, author of “The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life As An Experiment.” Jacobs has lived one year of his life heeding the principles set forth in the Bible.  He got deeply involved in his nanny’s internet-dating experience.  He tried outsourcing all aspects of his life to India, engaged in “radical honesty” and lived for a time according to George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior.  I had the biggest laugh all week, watching Colbert interview Jacobs about his experiments.  After the show, I logged on to my computer and looked up George Washington Rules.  I urge you to do the same.  Based on a set of rules put together by French Jesuits 414 years ago, many of the rules are just as applicable today as they were then, and when Washington ressurrected them a couple hundred years ago.  No. 65: “Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest Scoff at none although they give Occasion.” It would be very difficult to live according to that rule alone, as a blogger in the 21st century, let me tell you.  No. 110: “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience” — well, that one is timeless.  Without a conscience, you wreak havoc on society.

Thinking about Jacobs and his book, I came to the realization that I am engaged in my very own experiment.  This blog is my guinea pig diary of sorts.  I guess I have to read Jacobs’ book to learn at one point he decided it was time to move on to another experiment.  If not blogging, what would be my experiment?  Well, as I was washing dishes this morning, I was thinking of two things that surely won’t be on my list (1.) organized religion and (2.) public office.  On the former, I’ve been there and tried that, and I’m over it. God is my co-pilot all the time, I don’t need to get all wrapped up in going to church.  My organized-religion experiment will be a chapter in my book some day.  On running for public office, well, this public life of blogging gives you a real good dose of what politicians have to endure.  I can’t imagine myself waving on the side of the road to win an election, actually winning, and then as a public servant not being able to truly speak my mind, for fear of being taken to the Ethics Board.  So, if I wasn’t blogging, what would I do? Well, if my husband would let me, there are plenty of “communities” in Puna that I could join for an experiment. HA! Just the thought evokes laughter.  I could find a guru in Puna and follow him for some time.  Oh, wait, that’s too much like an organized religion. Should I join an intentional community, which one would I choose. The raw-food community? No. I would be too concerned about Rat Lungworm Disease.  The polyamorous community?  No, my man is mine, I ain’t sharing him.  The community of jugglers?  Well, actually, I lived on Belly Acres for nine months at one time, so I already have that one checked off my list.  Let’s see, do you know about the Essensual community?  I didn’t know about it myself, until a friend enlightened me recently.  Sorry, I’m blushing at the thought, I can’t tell you exactly what that group is about, for fear of being attacked by insulted Christians and conservatives who read this blog.  Suffice it to say, the Essensual community is in Aunty Emily’s district of Puna!

Here I am, wracking my brain, trying to think of a clever experiment.  I guess I’ll stay with my online guinea pig diary, until I come up with a better idea for an experiment.  Go ahead, make your comments, whether they be about Emily, Curtis or me, just be sure to ponder George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior like I did.  Hey, maybe together we can embark on an experiment to daily remind each other of these age-old rules? Hey, I’m cognizant of the fact that I regularly break many of the 110 rules. But I pledge to you right now that I will abide by all the rules associated with eating and drinking, including this one, no. 97: “Put not another bit into your mouth till the former be swallowed. Let not your morsels be too big for the jowls.” I also promise not to talk with my mouth full, as spelled out in no. 98. I also won’t be cleaning my teeth with a table cloth napkin, a knife, or a fork, as stated in no. 100…

34 replies
  1. Hugh Clark
    Hugh Clark says:

    You have struck the right balance on Curtis. Keep in mind our esteemed state Supreme Court cannot define an attorney.

    So how can justices talk about the conduct of a person they dont know exists?

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    What amazes me is Emily thinks she did nothing wrong and Udovic does not think the Ethics Board should control behavior of Council members at council hearings during public testimony.

    If we allow council members and the public to act out at these hearing with no decorum whatsover than what we can soon expect is an out-of-order kangaroo court.

    If we have no boudaries on behavior, we’re not going to need one county paid officer at these hearings, we’ll need an army of police officers with riots that will be incited by this lack of behavioral standards.

    And Emily should be setting the example as an elected official.

  3. Not Me
    Not Me says:

    E.N. is one reason I no longer testify at Co. Council Meetins. Higa was the other, and he is gone.

    E.N. follows women to the ladies room haranguing them, threatens to bring down her “akua” on them, prays over testifiers (if she did that to me, IÊ»d be all over Big Island Video), and is CONSTANTLY saying how people “love” her, how she is a “good person”, calling the race card (YES SHE DOES AS SHOWN IN TRANSCRIPT AND VIDEO), blah blah blah. I do not want to feel threatened by testifying, even at a remote location, at Co. Council Meetings.

    She doesnʻt think ANY gov. committee or ANYONE should have the slightest say in how she treats the people who pay her salary. An unreduced salary, may I add.

    Now YOU call her all mavericky.

    People are in fear of her retribution, so I am anon. on this post.

    So, while the action against her is barely even a censure, I am

  4. Greg
    Greg says:

    The ethics board should be concerned more with graft and corruption than personal idiosyncracies. I don’t agree with a lot of what Em does, but I certainly wouldn’t try and have someone censured for anything as manini as “praying” over me, giving me the “thumbs down”, or throwing a pencil across the room.

    This kind of behavior probably infuriates and dismays most of the well bred and highly educated citizens of our county, but let me clue you in; They aren’t the ones who voted Emily in. It was Joe Lau Lau. Get used to it.

    To Emily’s everlasting credit; She did keep us out of a 120 million dollar solid waste debt. Her biggest weakness is not surrounding herself with quality staff. (Since Tiffany, that is)


  5. rj
    rj says:

    Emily is wasting her time with this council. They can’t appreciate her frankness and the ordinary citizen that she is and whom she represents. Put her on OHA, and give those on the board of trustees a real reality check.

    I would vote for her as an OHA trustee in a heartbeat. And why not? She’s taken quite a few trips out to see them anyway. Set her up to win, and put her in a place where she will blossom and flourish. Her sitting on the county council is doing more harm to her than good- and it’s partly her fault because she doesn’t think to differentiate her way of being as a councilwoman and as the Auntie Emily that everyone knows and loves.

  6. John Powell
    John Powell says:

    The complaints seem to address only Naeole’s style, which offend the mainland and hippie sensibilities of the bearded lady and her partner. What a waste of Board of Ethics time.

    And I like Curtis, but the HSC’s failure to define “attorney” doesn’t make it OK to take clients’ money and not do the work.

  7. Brian Jordan
    Brian Jordan says:

    Last week she was in Walmart loudly soliciting food from her constituants. She than sang what sounded like a very poor Hawaiian rendition of the Old Rugged Cross. If itt was, she needs to listen to the George Jones Version. I guess soliciting for food is ethical? It appears Council members can beg in public.
    Withe our Ethics Board it seems all is ethical. I truly now believe she is passing the bounds of eccentric to a full blown embarassment.

  8. Doc
    Doc says:

    Aloha Curtis,
    I was in shock as I read the paper. I wish, as I’m sure you do, that the clock could be turned back to better days.
    I am guessing the many regulars on Tiffany’s blog are feeling much the same way, wondering WTH? You’ve made a lot of friends here who have enjoyed your past historical and humanitarian viewpoints. Some may have been screwed by lawyers in the past and may take a little longer to come around – forgive them.
    I want to say, I love your stories and see good potential for a book or two. (Amazon prints on demand and sends you a check) I feel really bad for your clients and I feel bad for you. Love the sinner, hate the sin. Today is as good a day as any to begin to move forward towards redemption. Exorcise your demons and begin again. It may be presumptuous of me, but I think we all are rooting for you to make restitution and work this out. Suspended is not disbarred. Sincerely wishing you all the best in your new future of better karma.

  9. Brian Jordan
    Brian Jordan says:

    HUgh our Supreme Court had to recusae itself from the Bishop Estate hearings. They didn’t throw a big stone because they failed the state not just a few clients. I hope Curtis can make restitution and get it back together he is a really nice fellow.

  10. Kim Jordan
    Kim Jordan says:


    If a Council member was quoting from a Witchcraft book (as their religion), casting spells over speakers, would you still feel OK with it? If they were Muslum?
    High School Football teams, Graduations, etc have had rules to Stop Praying (yes, even individually). But you feel its OK for EN to do this in a government setting? How about let’s get that same right restored to our school students! Not to mention the rest of the Goverenment. Or is EN a special case above all others, including the Presidents of the U.S.?

    I would vote for EN for OHA in a heartbeat. We all know who she means when she refers to “my people”.


  11. Hugh Clark
    Hugh Clark says:

    After sleepibg on Emily’s ethics violation, I have decided she finishes in the third or fourth tier of council misbehavior. Really manini by any comparison.

    I do wish she would drop her religious bent from her public persona but then she is who she is and Puna voters had to know all of that when they returned her to office. She is not a secretive council member.

    I have seen council chairman do some fairly ribald stuff, including one who showed a tasteless “Playboy” cartoon to a sweet lady who testified earnestly. She was shocked but filed no complaint.

    I have seen gender and racist remarks from the council table far exceeding anything Emily has done. I have personally received strong public reprimands from councilmen who did not approve of my reporting, as have others in the declining press corps.

    I think we need to keep Emily’s alleged violation in perspective. She may be unrefined but she is relatively honest.

  12. Rick
    Rick says:

    I assume Hugh’s remarks regarding Curtis’ suspension by the State Supreme Court are simply sarcasm, but I cannot let them go unanswered. The State Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Council is responsible for handling complaints about attornys, and takes this responsibility very seriously. All investigations are reviewed by the Disciplinary Board and then forwarded to the Supreme Court for their review. Two members of the Disciplinary Board are from Hawaii Island. Neither were involved in the investigation or review of this case, in part to ensure there was no conflict of interest. Both the Office of Disciplinary Counsel and the Supreme Court play a very important role in protecting the public from unethical/illegal behavior by attorneys.

  13. kawika
    kawika says:

    I find it interesting that they come down on Emily for giving a thumbs down, but another council member talks about “having enough balls to do” something, and nobody even blinks an eye at that person. The bottom line is that Emily doesn’t fit the mold of a typical council member — stuffy, old, wealthy, Anglo males, and for that she is being punished.

  14. Steve Offenbaker
    Steve Offenbaker says:

    1. I think emily has the right to pray whenever she wants for whoever she wants, so long as she dosen’t do it into the mic and stop the meeting.

    2. As long as the Council opens every meeting with a pastor and a prayer how can anyone complain at Emily for talking about God?

    3. Emily has been breaking the rules since day one, her luck ran out.

  15. Kim Jordan
    Kim Jordan says:

    RJ ….

    Would these religious chants and prayers be so manini if the prayers weren’t Christian? Are they manini just because someone agrees with the religion?
    Would we grant the same understanding to a Religious group that many people fear or misunderstand?
    If a council member started a quiet personal prayer, not from Christianity, what would the reaction be? Would the Ethics be different? The answer should be “No Difference”, but I don’t think that would be the case.

    Ethically, we should all have the same rights. Unfortunely, our personal differences are not always accepted, and we seem to lose our rights. At the same time, others, with more accepted beliefs are allowed to push their beliefs over us.

    Peer pressure and Bullying, it’s not just in School!

    Hope this explains….Kim

  16. James Weatherford
    James Weatherford says:

    Interesting that among those commenting – in support, in criticism, and in opposition — regarding the decision of the Ethics Board, not one person has referred to the Hawaii County Code of Ethics, which is in Chapter 2 of Hawaii County Code.

    This is the section of relevance. In particular, the question arising is whether there was a violation of paragraph 3.

    “Section 2-83. Fair treatment.
    (a) Officers and employees of the County, while discharging their duties and dealing with the public, shall adhere to the following precepts:
    (1) All public property and equipment are to be treated as a public trust and are not to be used in a
    proprietary manner or for personal purposes without proper consent.
    (2) No person in a supervisory capacity shall engage in personal or business relationships with
    subordinates, which might intimidate said subordinates in the discharge of their official duties.
    (3) All persons shall be treated in a courteous, fair and impartial manner.”

    So, rather than personal opinions, political overtone, or past behavior by other Council members, the only relevant point is whether the action by Council Member Naeole in fact treated the testifiers in a “courteous, fair, and impartial manner.”

  17. rj
    rj says:


    You’re probably right. If a prayer from another faith was recited by a council member it might have slipped through the cracks. But then again, most politicians keep their state and religion separate.

  18. Colleen
    Colleen says:

    Tiffany – I hope you have enough supporters and fans of your blog who comment or email you enough to counteract the hopefully very few who insult and harass you. I find your writing to be witty, insightful and fresh. I look forward to reading your take on local happenings. I enjoy and applaud your “experiment”. You’re writing deserves to see the light of day and I hope whatever experiment you take on next, it involves sharing your perspective with the community. Mahalo and keep up the awesome work. And remember to keep part of yourself for your family, especially for that beautiful little girl of yours.

  19. Not Me
    Not Me says:

    James: “…the only relevant poiNnt is whether the action by Council Member Naeole in fact treated the testifiers in a “courteous, fair, and impartial manner.”

    Thumbs down!

  20. kawika
    kawika says:

    @ John Powell:

    I didn’t mean particularly in Hawai’i, but I was referring to places like FLORIDA. Get it? Those that are “going after” her the most are those that come from places that have wealthy, old, Anglo males in charge, and when they come to Hawai’i they see that isn’t the case, so they strive their hardest to make the council “normal” in their eyes. I just want to know why she is the only one being singled out, and after living in their society for quite some time, I can see that is because she is “a little dark”…nothing else.

  21. Doc
    Doc says:

    “If a Council member was quoting from a Witchcraft book (as their religion), casting spells over speakers, would you still feel OK with it?”

    That conjures up a funny mind photo – the council as, one Wiccan,; one shaman; one in a pope hat; one witch doctor, one new ager, etc. – Where’s The Lack, when you need him? I’ll try imagining this next time I testify – usually I just picture them naked to pass the time during long, fruitless sessions.

  22. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    With all due respect, as a proud part Hawaiian whose family has originated and lived here for many years (brother, who is LA for DHHL and whose boss, Micah Kane, another Kamehameha grad, was in a controversy with Aunty, sister, uncles, naunties, cousins who are Kamehameha graduates) and has been involved and contributed to this community in many ways, I don’t see it as a “little dark” issue.

    It seems Em is bringing these controversies upon herself. The bringing of religion in to council meetings, the loud and unprofessional language and behaviors, the remarks about “being dark”, etc. and the continuing to look at issues not from a position of logic and reason but one, it seems, from pity me I am Hawaiian, people call me stupid because the way I talk so I gotta be rude to the public testifying, and I going vote like that because Dominic neva support my cousin, Billy is what turns off many voters, like me, no matter what race you are.

    Billy is not moaning and groaning about and flashing the race card but promoting his education, youth, and professionalism. Kenoi has not once talked about the racial issue and neither has Enriquez who is also part Hawaiian.

    So Kawika, from one hawaiian to another, it is not race but the substance and professionalism of Em that is being questioned and criticized.

  23. Rob Tucker
    Rob Tucker says:

    That happy smiling face of Emily in the picture above… I wonder if she would be smiling if someone gave her the thumbs down.

    Probably not.

  24. Don O'Reilly
    Don O'Reilly says:

    In my life I have been very fortunate, in at least a few ways.

    One way is I have had the good fortune to live on the Big Island for most of my life. I have known many good people, from very light to very dark.

    For this Chicago born irish-italian, the shade, hue, or texture has nothin to do with it. you gotta look deep, if you want just a hint of the true individual. Its not a simple answer, like what church, race, or orientation.

    We are complex beings. One of the things I have loved about the Big Island for decades is, there seems to be a profound respect for that. These complaints against Councilwoman Naeole suggest that she needs to think a little outside of her universe, cool off, try a little tenderness.

    Curtis is a great contributor to this blog. More than twenty years ago, he gave me and two business partners some really, really good advice, and never charged us a dime. To this day he is a friend of mine, as well as the two former partners (them being friends today due to that advice). Though a flawed human being (is anybody reading this not?) I know he has the where-with-all 1000 times over to make it pono. Aloha

  25. Brian Jordan
    Brian Jordan says:

    Kawika spare me the, it’s whiteys fault routine. I grew up in a nearly all black city. Our Mayor was a Coke Freak, Whore Monger, seller of jobs, contracts and diplomas. Every time he got caught, they said whitey doesn’t like him. We were not in charge of the city. Anybody can be an asshole. Reverse discrimination is not an answer. Councilwoman Naeole is responsible for HER behavior. She has gotten a pass ever time. Now she gets a slap on the wrist for behavior she has showed since day one. It’s Whiteys fault? Clearly we are not in Charge of the County Government. This Anglo helped her get elected the first time. Ireland was cruely ruled by England for hundreds of years. Should I hate every Englishman?Ireland had blacks take it’s people slaves from Baltimore Ireland. Does this mean I hold every person of color accountable for raiding my island? It would be too ignorant to suggest. The Yankees hung my Aunt Mary Surratt unjustly. Should I hate everyone above the Mason Dixon Line? That to would be ignorant. This is not a racial issue. It’s about her inability to accept responsibilty for her conduct and disrespectful remarks and gestures towards all of her constituents. She is the one who says she represents only HER PEOPLE. Perhaps a reading of the good Samaritan is in order for our Counciwoman.

  26. Tom Lackey
    Tom Lackey says:


    Here, here, need I say more?

    Auntie is trying to move that rubber tree plant without high hopes.

    I hate this “my people ski!” my people are everyone not just a special group of the right color folks. Get a clue, we are all your people.

    The Lack

  27. Kim Jordan
    Kim Jordan says:

    To Emily…
    I watched the video of you explaining to the Ethics committee that you were probably praying to yourself, not over Joyce.
    Please remember, you have a job. We the people (including Joyce) pay taxes which then pay your salary. Your job includes listening to our concerns, especially during Council meetings.
    If you are praying, you are not listening to the speaker. Therefore, you are not doing the job you are being paid to do. Very simple.
    Have faith that God will still be around after the meetings. Save your prayers for a time when they do not interfere with the job you are being paid to do.
    I don’t believe anyone wants you to change your beliefs. But please don’t let them affect your ability to do your job.

    Thank you, Kim Jordan

  28. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I’ve always thought the part of the ethics code that requires “courteous” behavior is somewhat vague and tough to understand.

    If someone calls and starts swearing at you over the phone, can you hang up, can you ask them for their name and phone number, do you politely tell them you are not paid to listen to people swear? Cany you swer back?

    If you are a council person and get excited about an issue if you raise your voice to members of the public or to county employees, have you crossed the “courteous” line?

    If you make a face when someone is testifying is that discourteous? what about a loud sigh? What if you walk out of the room or turn your back?

    If someone is testifying and you are talking on your cell phone, typing on your laptop, eating food, is that discourteous?

    However, I have to admit as tolerant as I consider myself, as much as I lean towards benefit of the doubt and giving leeway to elected officials, Emily is starting to push my buttons.

    It is not only at Council meetings that she feels moved to pray, it happens at all kinds of meetings both private and public. When she is the elected official and you are a county employee and she meets with you and wants to start the meeting with a prayer, what do you say?

    It’s hard to say that you are uncomfortable praying to Jesus to bless the meeting when you are either an agnostic, atheist, Bhuddhist, Muslim (yes we have some Muslims and Jews) and don’t beleive the same way Emily does because you still have to appear before the council and they vote on your budget.

    I have heard from several employees that they wonder if she realizes that they don’t share the same religion and that she is asking them to pray to somepne they don’t necessarily believe in?

  29. kawika
    kawika says:

    @anonymous: “I don’t see it as a “little dark” issue.”

    –Uh, huh…try living on the mainland for a while, then you’ll see that is the exact reason they are treating her the way that they do.

    @ Brian Jordan:

    Your very use of the word “Yankee” sums it all up. I bet you have one of those “we don’t care how you do it up north” bumper stickers.

  30. john makana
    john makana says:

    I was one of the victims that was taken by Curtis……He took my money and I never saw him again. I had to take out a loan to pay him and 3 years later I was still paying it. He should have been charge will a felony for taking more then 15000.00 dollars for his clients. Shame on you

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