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Few gifts for County Council members

July 13, 2017 - 12:05am

HILO — Only one County Council member, Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung, reported receiving any gifts in the past 12 months.

County Council members and other officials are forbidden under the ethics code from accepting gifts of any value if they are intended to influence their official actions or as a reward for official actions. They are allowed to accept other gifts, but must report by June 30 any gift valued singly or in aggregate from a single source of over $100 in gift disclosure forms for the prior 12 months.

Chung reported he received a handmade lomilomi stick from County Finance Director Collins Tomei on Feb. 8. He also reported receiving four tickets to the annual Panaewa Stampede rodeo from Day-Lum Rentals Management owner Nancy Cabral on Feb. 15.

He estimated the lomilomi stick at $60, although he added “priceless” in parenthesis because of the emotional value, he said. The rodeo tickets were valued together at $32.

Those who receive gifts valued less than the threshold aren’t required to file a disclosure, but council members Dru Kanuha, Karen Eoff and Eileen O’Hara filed anyway, stating they had no reportable gifts.

The county Board of Ethics signed off on the disclosures at its meeting Tuesday.

“It didn’t appear that any of these gifts violated that particular section (of the ethics code),” said board member Douglass Adams. “The process seems to be working at this point in time.”

Tomei said he gave his handmade lomilomi sticks to all council members during introductory meetings with them. He said he’s made hundreds of them over the past 25 years or so, primarily donating them to a Japanese church.

The sticks, made of rebar and wood, are a combination of the old style wooden ones from traditional Hawaiian craftsmanship, with circle hook technology that came later, he said.

“It’s like a philosophical gift. This is how we have to work together,” he said. “Maybe something like this can help them get to a better place in their lives.”

Chung said he reported the gift as a way to show his appreciation.

“We really don’t receive many gifts,” Chung said. “He was so nice to do it, I wanted to acknowledge it and thank him.”

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