Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Something smells bad at the Hawaii State Ethics Commission
by Larry Geller
The Hawaii State Ethics Commission meets Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. It seems likely that they will take some action to remove long-serving director Dan Mollway. The trouble is, discussion on their reasons have been held behind closed doors, and no wrongdoing or misconduct has been alleged. Their reasons for a likely dismissal action tomorrow just don’t hold up.
Mollway has been on paid leave since that Feb. 10 meeting [of the Commission], when commissioners set up a two-member investigating committee consisting of Chairwoman Maria Sullivan and Commissioner David Randell.
Although the committee said there was no issue of misconduct involved, an investigation into Mollway's work habits was launched in response to concerns raised last year by staff members. [Star-Bulletin, Ethics panel report faults chief Mollway's work habits, 5/27/2010]
Information available to the public would seem to bring into question the review procedures of the Commission rather than the conduct of the Director. According to their report, cited in the news article:
The report says concerns about his work style and habits were brought to the commission's attention in 2009. Concerns focused on his actual time spent in the office and his use of sick leave and vacation time, particularly from September to December.
Now, at least in the corporate world where I come from, if there were a concern about “work habits” or use of leave time, you sit down with the person concerned and discuss it. If there are problems, you ask them to remedy them (that is, correct the problematic work habits). Only if the problems persist and are damaging would there be reason to move to dismiss. That is, the dismissal would be on the basis that the problematic behavior was not corrected.
The Commission decided to investigate on its own and appointed a committee of staff members. That in itself is problematic. Given the importance of the office, an independent investigation would seem to be called for to rule out infighting on the Commission itself as a motivation for this action.
The investigative committee said it agreed with many opinions from staff and testimonies submitted on Mollway's behalf saying he is "extremely intelligent, and that he is highly regarded in government and nongovernment circle."
Mollway has served for 24 years. Something that happened between September and December would seem to be at most a minor glitch in a long career for someone so highly regarded.
The committee’s comment should mean that the results of the investigation are given to Mollway and he should be allowed to respond as to how he will correct anything he agrees is problematic.
Are the reasons released publicly the real reasons for the Commissions action, or are they withholding something? Who will investigate the Ethics Commission?