HILO — A public official’s relationship with journalists may be prickly, but it doesn’t arise to an ethics violation if it’s not personal, the Board of Ethics decided Monday in unanimously dismissing a complaint against County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi.
“Most people will find out in everyday life, the media and people in public office don’t get along, and that’s the way it should be,” said board member Arne Henricks, a retired judge.
Tiffany Edwards Hunt, a reporter who runs a blog and monthly newspaper, had filed the complaint, saying that Kawauchi “stonewalled” her when she attempted to get information about the elections. Hunt based her complaint on the portion of the ethics code requiring public officials treat everyone in a “courteous, fair and impartial manner.”
Kawauchi, in response to questions from the board, said she created a media request list after hearing complaints that some media and bloggers weren’t receiving news releases. She submitted names of five reporters, including Hunt, who filled out the form, and said other media and bloggers were included on her mailing list who hadn’t filled out the form. She wasn’t specially targeting Hunt, she said.
“I don’t have bad feelings against her, no,” Kawauchi said.
Hunt said she and a few other bloggers felt singled out.
“The bottom line is on principle I didn’t feel I was being treated fairly, impartially and courteously,” Hunt said. “I am here on principle. The election is over, but the issue is still needing to be worked out.”
Chairman John Dill recused himself from the discussion and vote because he had written a letter July 25 to the state Attorney General’s Office, seeking an investigation into how Kawauchi was running the county Elections Division.