Chair Hee, Vice Chair Shimabukuro, and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii opposes SB 2240 which exempts certain “limited-use” members of groups convened solely to provide comments, share technical knowledge or expertise, or assist in formulating recommendations to, with or for the legislature, governor, or other state departments, agencies, or boards, from the state code of ethics.
While we understand the need for and certainly encourage participation by citizens in such groups, our concern is that this exemption not only sets a bad tone, but could well start down a slippery slope, and frankly, is not needed. If the issue is the filing of financial disclosures, Hawaii Revised Statutes, Chapter 84 Standards of Conduct states that it applies to permanent employees (84-17 sub-para c (3)) and the annual financial disclosure is required only of “The members of every state board or commission whose original terms of office are for periods exceeding one year and whose functions are not solely advisory” (84-17 sub-para c (9)). Thus, such non-permanent advisors addressed by this bill are not subject to the financial disclosure requirements.
The purpose in having a Code of Ethics is to prevent corruption in government. Every step forward in protecting against corruption helps improve public confidence in government. For government to work people must have faith in the integrity of its elected officials and the culture of honesty. Excluding those who provide advice or comments to, or formulate recommendations for the legislature, the governor, or a state department, agency, or officer sends a mixed message about our laws designed to make ethics a shining principle of an incorruptible government. We want all those who participate in the formulation of public policy, laws and rules to be held to a high standard.
We urge you to hold this bill. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.