Monday, April 02, 2007


Hanky-panky at the Senate?

If a comment posted yesterday to the Advertiser's Capitol Notebook blog page is no April Fools joke, it raises serious concerns about ethics in our state Senate. An excerpt:
Comment from: Kalani K. [Visitor]
...Former Senate President Robert Bunda introduced SCR 48 to go after the Hawaii Disabilities Rights Organization because they sued one of his campaign donors and GIA recipients ORI Anuenue, Inc. aka Helemano Plantation. The Hawaii Disabilities Rights is suing ORI/Helemano Plantation because of allegation of severely underpaying workers-- below minimum wage. In fact the hearing on Wednesday went on for 3 hours. He went as far as asking them to drop the suit if he drops the resolution. ...
04/01/07 @ 14:38
Certainly, I can't say anything about the merits of the suit, which I have not looked into.

Hawaii Disability Rights is Hawaii's Protection and Advocacy organization. I am familiar with the work they do and doubt that a frivolous lawsuit would be filed--they are overworked and just don't have the time. But that's not the issue here.

The issue is whether the Senate is being used for retaliatory purposes with the introduction of SCR 48, "Requesting the Hawaii Disability Rights Center to Provide an Analysis of the Laws Governing its Access to Patient Records and its Policies and Procedures for Conducting Investigations," and whether Sen. Bunda has a conflict of interest in introducing it.

Sadly, it would not be unprecedented for government to retaliate against those supporting the rights of persons with disabilities in Hawaii. Through the decade of the Felix Consent Decree there were examples including repeated, punitive audits against professionals who sought only to make sure the children got the proper treatment. I could go on, but let's just look at this issue.

I'm not sure that the Ethics Commission reads the Advertiser's blog. As a citizen of the state, I would be upset to find that the commenter's analysis is accurate, particularly the last quoted part above, "He went as far as asking them to drop the suit if he drops the resolution." So the best thing I can think of doing is popping a copy of this post over to the Ethics Commission to see what they might have to say.

I'll do that in the next 5 minutes.

Senators have their own grapevine. If they feel there is merit in the commenter's report, they should not let this resolution advance. The Hawaii Disability Rights folks don't need the extra workload complying would require--it would take away from the time they should spend fighting for people's rights.

Stay tuned.


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