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Saturday, March 19, 2022
Ethics: State Employees Can't Self-License, but they can Self-Deal
By News Release @ 9:20 PM :: 630 Views :: Ethics

ADVISORY OPINION NO. 2022-1

from Hawaii State Ethics Comm, January 19, 2022 (excerpts)

A state employee (“Employee”) requested an Advisory Opinion from the Hawaiʻi State Ethics Commission (“Commission”) as to whether the Employee may apply to her state agency (“Agency A”) for a license to operate a private business. Because the Employee is directly involved in regulating this industry, the Commission concludes that the Hawai‘i State Ethics Code, Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (“HRS”) chapter 84, prohibits the Employee from applying for and obtaining the requested license while employed by Agency A.

I. Facts

The Employee works for Agency A, which regulates the specified industry to ensure compliance with state laws and regulations. Among other things, Agency A reviews and approves license applications from applicants seeking to operate a regulated facility. As part of her state regulatory duties, the Employee conducts an initial review of all applications that are submitted by applicants in a particular county (“County A”). After reviewing and approving the documents submitted by the applicant, the Employee transfers the matter to another employee to conduct the pre-licensing inspection. The Commission’s understanding is that Agency A does not simply rubberstamp applications: instead, employees conduct a thorough review and exercise independent judgment in determining whether an applicant has met the standards for licensure, and there is typically some communication between the applicant and Agency A while the application is under review. As a result, the application process can take approximately one to two years.

Agency A has a total of nineteen employees. Employee is the only person assigned to County A. If the Employee were to recuse herself from a particular application, the matter would be re-assigned to another staff person.

The Employee is seeking a license to operate a certain type of business that is regulated by Agency A. The Employee indicated that she would like to continue her state employment with Agency A after receiving the license. The Employee, however, also noted that if she decided to leave her state position, she hoped to obtain the license first before formally terminating her state employment…

read … Full Report

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ADVISORY OPINION NO. 2022-2  

from Hawaii State Ethics Comm, February 16, 2022 (excerpts)

The Hawai‘i State Ethics Commission (“Commission”) received a joint written request from two state employees (referred to herein as “Employee A” and “Employee B”, and jointly, as “Employees”) for an advisory opinion. Both Employees are employed by the same state agency (“Agency”). The Employees asked whether a private business they co-own may procure the services of an Agency research facility. Based on the information provided, the Commission concludes that the State Ethics Code, Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (“HRS”) Chapter 84, does not prohibit this, provided the Employees abide by certain restrictions.

I. Facts

Having reviewed the information provided, the Commission understands the facts to be as follows.

A. State Employment

The Employees are employed by different sections of the Agency. As part of his state duties, Employee B manages and oversees an Agency research facility (“Facility”). In general, such facilities support and enhance research within the State by offering services with the latest technologies and expertise. The services of such facilities are available internally to Agency employees, as well as externally to the public on a fee-for-service basis.

B. Private Business

In addition to their positions at the Agency, both Employees co-own a private business ( “Business”). The Business provides assessments of community-based programs.

The Business provides its services to various clients. As part of a project for one of its clients, the Business would like to engage the services of the Facility to assist in providing certain technical assessments. The Facility is the only provider of these services in the State. The Business would pay the standard list prices for public users for these services….

read … Full Report

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