Hawaii Ethics Commission changes disclosure rules
HONOLULU — The financial information of up to 150 public officials serving on state boards and commissions will not be made public until next year.
The Hawaii Ethics Commission voted Wednesday to withhold from the public those officials’ disclosure statements that were filed before July 8, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
The commission was responding to a new law that expands whose financial disclosures are released. The law added members of 15 state boards and commissions to the list.
Les Kondo, executive director of the Ethics Commission, initially interpreted the law as requiring disclosure of the statements that were already on file for the year. He sent a memo in early July to affected officials saying their information was going to be shared.
But after members of public boards complained about the lack of advance notice, a state deputy attorney general decided retroactive application of the law was inappropriate, Kondo said.
At least 26 volunteer board members have resigned over privacy concerns since the House and Senate unanimously approved the bill. The new law requires public officials to release information about income, investments, real estate holdings and business interests of themselves, their spouses and their dependent children.
Members of the 15 state boards were already providing financial information to the Ethics Commission, but it wasn’t previously released to the public.
“And so we had people from boards and commissions filing their financial disclosure statements under the expectation that they would not be accessible publicly,” said Ruth Tschumy, a commission member. “Is it fair to apply Act 230 retroactively when that is not part of the legislation?”
Now, those members’ information will remain confidential unless they remain in their posts and have to file a financial disclosure again in 2015.
The affected boards include the Ethics Commission, University of Hawaii Board of Regents, Board of Land and Natural Resources, Public Utilities Commission, Hawaii Community Development Authority and Land Use Commission.