Thursday, May 26, 2011

 

Senate Rule 72 complaint filed against “politically powerful senator” Hee


by Larry Geller

Ian Lind is a great detective. Investigative reporter, detective, same thing. He discovered last week that Senator Clayton Hee’s financial disclosures didn’t jibe with reality—as revealed in a disclosure filed by the senator’s wife.

Ian posted his findings in an article on May 21, 2011:  Politically powerful state senator files false ethics reports.

Here’s where Clark Kent morphs into Dick Tracy. Filing false reports is a serious matter.

Indeed, the disclosure form itself, immediately above the signature block, states “I further understand that there are statutory penalties for noncompliance.” Additionally, filing accurate financial disclosures is required by Article XIV of the Hawaii State Constitution. That Article begins, by the way:

The people of Hawaii believe that public officers and employees must exhibit the highest standards of ethical conduct and that these standards come from the personal integrity of each individual in government.

On May 23, two days after Ian’s article hit the Internet, Senator Hee faxed a new disclosure report to the Ethics Commission. It was posted on their website, replacing the original disclosure, with no indication that it is an amended or replacement filing. There’s no box on the form to indicate that, and the Ethics Commission dropped the original from their website.  Update: The Ethics Commission website today carries both forms, the second as “2011 Amendment.”

But Clark, er, Ian, followed up with another article on Wednesday morning,  Senator Hee amends latest financial disclosure, questions remain (5/25/2011).

As Ian has pointed out, other reports, from 2008 through 2010, may also have contained false information.

So what happens next? Anything? Should a “politically powerful state senator” get a walk on possibly filing years of false reports? If I’m caught jaywalking I get a ticket, I cannot just go back to the curb and try crossing the street again. The statutory and constitutional requirement to file “true, correct, and complete” disclosure is not erased by the subsequent filing of a new form only after the false disclosure has been uncovered.

This revelation puts the Senate itself on the spot. It can (and has) exempted itself from the Sunshine Law, for example, but it can’t exempt itself from the State Constitution. The trouble is, someone must file a complaint, and as Ian has noted, Senator Hee is a “politically powerful senator.” Which senator is going to do that?

Fortunately, Senate Rule 72 (misconduct) doesn’t require that a senator initiate a complaint. Here it is:

Rule 72 Misconduct; Procedure; Peer Review. No member of the Senate shall be subject to a charge for misconduct, disorderly behavior, or neglect of duty unless the person making the charge shall have first given notice of the charge to the President and to the member being charged.
   
    Upon receipt of the charge, the President shall attempt to resolve the matter in an administrative proceeding. If the matter cannot be resolved administratively, the President may appoint a Special Committee to be chaired by the Vice-President or such other member as the President may designate to investigate, hear and report upon the conduct of the member charged for misconduct, disorderly behavior or neglect of duty. Any member so charged shall be informed in writing of the specific charge or charges made against the member and have opportunity to present evidence and be heard in the member's own defense before the Special Committee. Following its investigation and hearing, the Special Committee shall file its report with the President setting forth its findings and recommendations.
   
    If the committee recommends dismissal of the charge or charges, the President may dismiss the charges without further hearing, or the President may present the report of the committee to the Senate for its consideration.

    The Senate, by a majority vote, may dismiss the charge or charges against the member without a hearing.
   
    If there is no dismissal of the charge or charges, or if the committee recommends censure, suspension or expulsion, the President shall present the report of the committee to the Senate for its consideration and decision. The member who is charged, shall be informed in writing of the presentation of the charge or charges of the committee report to the Senate and be given an opportunity to be heard in the member's own defense. The Senate, by a majority vote, may dismiss the charge or charges without a hearing, or with notice and an opportunity to be heard in the member's own defense, censure a member or, upon a two-thirds vote of all the members of the Senate, suspend or expel a member.
   
    At any stage of the charge against a member, the member shall have a right to be represented by a person or persons of the member's own choosing.

So long story short, Disappeared News hand-delivered a complaint to the Senate President’s office yesterday and emailed it to Senator Hee last night. Attached to the complaint were copies of Senator Hee’s original disclosure forms as filed for 2008 through the present, not the amended form. Also attached was the disclosure filed by his wife that contradicted his own representation.

Let’s see what they do with it. Rule 72 seems clear as to what action must be taken, but it’s open-ended as to whether the Senate will apply a wet noodle or some stronger penalty after concluding its investigation.

Let’s see whether justice applies to a “politically powerful senator” as it would to anyone else.

Let’s see whether the Hawaii State Constitution is taken seriously or if the Senate treats it as “just a piece of paper.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.


Comments:

Hi Larry, was there supposed to be a copy of your hand-delivered complaint in the link?
Donʻt see it if there was.
 


No, I didn't post a copy of the complaint with the article. Let's see... that was two years ago. I probably still have a copy around someplace... ok, got it. You can download a copy from this link.
 

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