(Following is a narrative written by Toni Robert of Puna, which serves as an addendum to a Board of Ethics petition filed this week, alleging violations on the part of Council District 5 office. A commentary was published earlier this week, anticipating this Board of Ethics petition to be filed against Puna Councilwoman Emily Naeole-Beason and her Council Aide Gwen Kupahu. Â That Big Island Chronicle (BIC) commentary also detailed the fact that BIC and Hawaii247.com Â have jointly filed a Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA) request with the Data Systems Department for all County emails, including those trashed, to and from Kupahu and Naeole-Beason between July 5 and the present. That request is pending. )
9/14/2010 10:51:14 PM
TO: Lincoln S. T. Ashida Corporation Counsel
County of Hawai`i Hilo Lagoon Centre 101 Aupuni Street Suite 325
Hilo, Hawai`i 96720
RE: Addendum to Code of Ethics Petition
Aloha Mr. Ashida and Board,
I am writing to expound upon the choices of the code I selected. I will acknowledge ignorance of the â€˜lawâ€™ regarding the actual intent behind each of the items below but will in fact use the actual meanings of the words to me to explain my petition. I beg your patience in advance.
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.
My comments: I understand â€˜personalâ€™ purposes may be subjective but I will address why I chose this with the following explanation: I am aware that Ms. Naeole gave verbal direction on or about June 2010 to her Campaign Treasurer during a Campaign Committee meeting at Ms. Naeoleâ€™s home. The verbal instruction was: â€˜Auntie Gwen, make sure you call as soon as you get into the office and order the T-Shirts [T-Shirt Company out of state. Check written, Thursday, July 1, a work day.] and Bagsâ€™[Bag Company is out of state. Check written on Monday, June 28, a work day]. The direction to her paid staff to use the office and the office equipment, and presumably the â€˜timeâ€™ to place a campaign order for T-Shirts and Bags, is of a personal nature and not the â€˜businessâ€™ of the office of District 5 Council.
(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.
My Comments: In keeping with the â€˜personalâ€™ â€“ or non county business â€“ Ms. Kupahu has been employed for Ms. Naeole for several years. During that time she has worked insome capacity or another as a campaign [personal] volunteer. Ms. Kupahu also is keenly aware of Ms. Naeoleâ€™s management style and understands how Ms. Naeole responds to those who do not accommodate her requests. Ms. Naeole is rather gruff or bullish in her demeanor when she feels she is not getting the service from someone subordinate to herself. Recently, I had occasion to be in the office for a meeting with Roxanne Hampton to discuss the progress being made on the Transitional Housing project. Ms. Naeole arrived in the office â€˜barkingâ€™ orders at everyone. She agreed to have an unscheduled sit down with RJ and myself to catch her up with what weâ€™d done to move the project along. Ms. Naeoleâ€™s management of both RJ and Gwen was dictatorial and impatient. At one point, when I felt it was no longer appropriate for me to be in the office to witness the harangue, I left the office and as I did I turned and said goodbye to Ms. Kupahu. I also said, â€˜I am leaving now, because I can!â€™ She giggled sheepishly and gestured she understood. Do I believe Ms. Kupahu feels her job so secure she can say â€˜noâ€™ to Ms. Naeoleâ€™s directives to take care of campaign [personal] matters while at work? I cannot answer for a certainty. However, this is campaign #3 and it is not the first time Ms. Kupahu has been in this situation. She knows what is permitted and what is not — yet complies with her â€˜bossâ€™sâ€™ inappropriate request obediently.
(3) Using County time, equipment or other facilities for private business or campaign purposes.
On August 15, 2010 while visiting Ms. Naeole at her home for a campaign meeting, she gave me an 8X10 page with 6 family photos to post on her Facebook page. When I got home to do the graphics with captions I realized there was no way to identify the individuals as I do not know her family. On August 16th I spoke with Emily to let her know I needed to meet with her somewhere in Pahoa so she could give me the names of the people in the picture. I was directed to Gwen for my answers. [Email proof is available] I had to call to obtain Ms. Kupahuâ€™s email and the address she gave me was her county email address. Ms. Kupahu responded from the county email address with the answers/information on August 19th.
I suggest your investigation contact Ben, of Puna Tech, [EM: firstname.lastname@example.org] the company who did Ms. Naeoleâ€™s website [www.auntieemily.com] to inquire where he went to pick up his check, where he dropped off his invoice and how he got the â€˜distribution listâ€™ to Gwen. I have heard parts of those discussions over a course of a few website design meetings but I cannot remember dates or specifics. It is my recollection, some or all of these things transpired in the office. This would, by necessity, involve the use of an employeeâ€™s time, the office at which she is employed [facilities] and if the distribution list was emailed to her it should be reflected in her email archives.
I would ask Ms. Kupahu how she secured the â€˜talk storyâ€™ location at Ainaloa, the Pahoa Community Center, Pohoiki sites and how she arranged for the Makuâ€™u Market booth. It is my understanding most if not all of those were initially secured via telephone, during work hours and from her work phone. [If you look at the dates on the campaign spending reports you will be able to verify the dates for some of the checks are work dates.]
I suggest the investigation contact Jason Armstrong of the Hawaii Tribune-Herald to inquire of the address used by Gwen when she requested a copy of the Candidate Questionnaire for Emily to respond to.
On August 20th at 1132A [http://www.bigislandchronicle.com/?p=16687#comment- 42606] Tiffany posted her thoughts regarding an employeeâ€™s use of County equipment, etc. I became aware that Gwen was reminded of the rules after this was posted. I believe when you research with Jason the â€˜email chainâ€™ initiated by Gwen regarding the Campaign Questionnaire you will note that communication from Ms. Naeoleâ€™s office regarding this extended out beyond the August 20th date of the posting to Tiffanyâ€™s blog.
(4) Using County property or personnel for other than a public activity or purpose.
As I sit here and recall the parts of many conversations which put the business of the campaign right inside the office of the District 5 Councilmember, it amounts to a significant amount of time and use of the Countyâ€™s property and personnel. I am not privy to all that has transpired but I am certain Ms. Kupahu could provide you with a clear picture.
In closing, I have the following concerns/suggestions: [The Petitions refer to as my â€˜position or contentionâ€™]
ï‚· The county needs to clearly educate the staff on such matters as conducting campaign related activities on the clock and from an office as a violation of the Code of Ethics. In addition, I would strongly recommend an inner office memo be generated from your HR department, or the County Clerkâ€™s office, or the Board of Ethics, prior to election season to all staff, reminding them of their obligation as county employees.
ï‚· I would recommend all elected officials be reminded prior to an election season of the â€˜rules and regulationsâ€™ surrounding what is expected of prospective candidates as they conduct themselves in their day to day activities in the capacity of their elected position.
ï‚· It is my concern Ms. Naeole has had a number of ethics violations charged against her with no apparent consequence and there is no inducement for her to regard the Code of Ethics with respect or adherence. Ms. Naeole is the first to remind anyone who makes a suggestion to her about her campaign that this is her 3rd campaign and she knows what she is doing. That being said, one could infer such admonition as an admission that she has deliberately and consistently violated the ethics code; or, because she has conducted her campaigns in the past the same as this campaign a breach of ethics is â€˜common placeâ€™ in her practice. Either way, such a cavalier attitude towards an ethical standard to which she is expected to adhere is unacceptable and inexcusable. It has eroded the publicâ€™s trust in the office of the District 5 Council as well as the publicâ€™s faith in the Board of Ethics to impose consequences sufficient to deter such repetitive and historical disregard.
ï‚· The items I have listed might well be waived as small infractions amounting to nothing of consequence. I would agree one here or there would support such an argument. However, in reality, violations seem common practice and it is the fact that it is so easily done and as a routine part of business which constitutes the real violation!
ï‚· I would like to state for the record, it is with great reticence that I have filed this Petition with you. My name and contact information being attached to such a document that is in the public domain puts me in a position for much retribution. However, I feel strongly as a citizen of this county I will get the kind of government I want only if I guard it with the sacred respect and honor it is due. I have stepped up and taken the risks associated with filing this document; I request that the Board of Ethics surprise the public by conducting an investigation and upon confirmation of any or all violations listed in this Petition, make the findings and consequences to Ms. Naeole public. It is time to restore the public trust [and I mean the word â€˜trustâ€™ in every conceivable means it can be used] and at the same time use this as an educational tool for all County employees/elected officials.
ï‚· In the event the question arises as to the timing of this Petition let me move that out of the way right now. I am a novice to campaigns and their management especially with an incumbent candidate. I actually learned here and there what I was allowed to do and not do. I understood and worked within those parameters. On Thursday, September 9, I learned from Emily sheâ€™d brought in her Campaign Manager to work as a volunteer in her office. I struggled with the information that afternoon and all day Friday. It seemed a blatant conflict of interest. On Saturday I called a couple of people I thought might have an idea as to rules about campaign managers working in candidate offices as a volunteer to determine if it was kosher. I was unable to get a definitive answer. As soon as it was possible for me to get to Kenneth Goodenowâ€™s office on Monday for clarification I did. I now understand the volunteer campaign manager is not a problem — but only if you deny all the evidence and suspend rational thinking — believing there would never be a single bit of campaign business done. During the discourse with Mr. Goodenow he mentioned that even a paid staff member could volunteer to work on a campaign, but only on their own time. After my meeting with Mr. Goodenow and contemplation of what he said to me, I was able to determine there was in fact a series of possible violations and felt the body of violations compelling enough for me to bring the information forward. By querying all office staff your investigation will no doubt garner far more information than what I bring to you, which would likely add weight to the gravity of the indifference, if not outright contempt, displayed by Councilwoman Naeole for the ethical standards of Hawaii County.
Sincerely, Toni Robert