Corruption in Hawaii is an Endemic DiseasePublic Corruption

Criminal corruption is an endemic disease in Hawaii.  In the past two years Hawaii Island lost $11M in affordable housing to embezzlement while on neighbor islands corrections officers, planning examiners, planning supervisors, environmental managers, state representatives and state senators have all been convicted of bribery and theft.

Non criminal corruption is even more prevalent.  The revolving door between government service, private practice, "consulting" and quasi-government agencies creates perverse financial incentives for public officials who know they will shortly return to the private sector.  Former Hawaii County Council member Stacy Higa is just one example.

How Core '24 Will End Corruption

Our plan to invest in law enforcement includes requirements for appointees and senior government officials reasonably suspected of impropriety to submit to a forensic audit.  Working with the public service workers union, we plan to make this a condition of employment.  We also plan to require these powerful public servants to take an oath of office that codifies their responsibilities to the public. 

New ethical standards will require all County employees to end activities that could be reasonably construed as a conflict of interest.  Every single employee at Hawaii County will be required to take training on these standards and pass a test showing that they understand them.  Failing to disclose conflicts or end conflicting activities when confronted with evidence will be cause for termination.

We will also end the revolving door that has lead to regulatory capture and the appearance of corruption.  As a first step, we will implement a cooling off period that will require public servants leaving government service to sit on the sidelines for a period of time before returning to represent private entities.

The focus on creating well defined processes and procedures for planning and permitting will also tamp down on corruption.  Our current reliance on subjective opinion in areas like building inspections, permit approvals and planning activities has created an environment where it is easy for unethical employees to accept bribes in return for favors.  Better defining processes and making them quantitative rather than qualitative will limit the power of inspectors and planners and make it much harder for them to accept bribes.

Though none of these steps will completely eliminate corruption, they will help to significantly reduce both the opportunities and incentives to steal from the public.  They will also make it much harder for corrupt employees to hide their illicit activities from law enforcement and the tax paying public.