Hawai’i County Mayor Billy Kenoi announced today the initiation of a joint project with the County Board of Ethics to review County operations and submit major amendments to the County Code of Ethics.
Recent local media articles have called into question the appropriateness of the conduct of some County employees. Although many of these issues, such as the sale/lease back of a County bulldozer, the Saddle Road tack coat dispute, and most recently the County contract for drywell cleaning, predate Mayor Kenoi’s administration, the Mayor emphasized the need for proactive measures to address conflicts of interest and even the appearance of impropriety.
“We are committed to a fair and open procurement process, and we want to avoid any perception that the process improperly favors any vendor,” Mayor Kenoi said. “Having county employees contract to sell goods and services to their own departments undermines public confidence in the fairness of the system, and it should not continue,” he added, noting that changes approved by the Council would apply to future contracts.
The Mayor’s Office will work directly with Ethics Board Chairman John Dill and his fellow Board members in reviewing present County operations and making warranted amendments to the Code. All amendments will then be formally submitted to the Hawai‘i County Council, which is solely responsible for the passage of legislation in our County.
“The focus will be on service to our community,” said Ethics Board Chairman Dill. “We want to do what is right for our community. The people of the County of Hawai‘i deserve nothing less.”
An issue arose earlier this month after a vendor criticized the bid specifications in an invitation for competitive bids for a contract to clean county drywells for the Department of Public Works. The drywell contract is currently held by Kama’aina Pumping Inc. The president of Kama’aina, a current County employee, sought the assistance of the Board of Ethics in 2003 to determine whether a conflict of interest existed. The Board in 2003 (different members from the current Board) applied existing law and determined no conflict of interest existed so long as the County employee had no direct involvement in the private contract.
Stressing that there was no evidence of wrongdoing, Mayor Kenoi said he will first ask that the Ethics Code be amended to specifically ban county workers in the future from contracting to sell goods or services to their own departments if certain criteria are met. The objective of the change is to boost public confidence in the procurement process, he said, noting that laws need to change in order to address the changing times.
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