Department of Education Teacher’s Violation of the Fair Treatment law and Gifts law
from Hawaii State Ethics Commission, November 21, 2022 (excerpts)
I. Facts Respondent Bayudan admitted and declared, under penalty of perjury, that the following facts are true and correct:
a) Respondent Bayudan is a teacher at Moanalua Elementary School (“Moanalua Elementary”), which is a school under the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Education (“DOE”).
b) Respondent Bayudan, at all times relevant herein, was a state “employee” as defined in HRS section 84-3, and was required to comply with the State Ethics Code.
c) At a Moanalua Elementary staff meeting held on January 6, 2021, the principal cautioned school employees against accepting cashier’s checks given to them for their personal use. The principal informed school employees that such payments were prohibited gifts unless used for school purposes. During that meeting, which Respondent Bayudan attended, a slide was shown explaining that “Based on the Gifts Law, we advise that the checks may only be accepted if they are used for a state purpose. Stated differently, the checks may not be personally accepted by the teachers, but they may be accepted by the school to be used for school purposes.”
d) Between December 28, 2020 and July 21, 2021, Respondent Bayudan accepted the following cashier’s checks from an elderly volunteer (“Donor”) at Moanalua Elementary totaling $16,600.00:
i. On or around December 28, 2020, Respondent Bayudan accepted a cashier’s check for $3,600.00.
ii. On or around January 11, 2021, Respondent Bayudan accepted a cashier’s check for $5,000.00.
iii. On or around February 9, 2021, Respondent Bayudan accepted a cashier’s check for $3,000.00.
iv. On or around May 20, 2021, Respondent Bayudan accepted a cashier’s check for $1,000.00.
v. On or around June 7, 2021, Respondent Bayudan accepted a cashier’s check for $1,000.00.
vi. On July 21, 2021, Respondent Bayudan accepted a cashier’s check for $3,000.00.
e) The Donor often gave the checks to Respondent Bayudan when working with her to complete various volunteer projects for Moanalua Elementary.
f) Respondent Bayudan did not inform the principal of Moanalua Elementary about these checks and did not spend any of the funds she received on school-related purposes; contrary to the principal’s instructions to all school employees, Respondent Bayudan deposited the checks into her personal bank account.
g) Respondent Bayudan was only acquainted with the Donor because of her position as a teacher at Moanalua Elementary and the Donor’s volunteer work at the school. …
… In this case, a reasonable person could conclude that the $16,600 received by Respondent Bayudan was meant to reward her for official action on her part. The Donor admitted that he gave Respondent Bayudan this money because he felt that teachers were underpaid and he wanted to help her out. Additionally, the high value of the gift and the fact that it was not for a state purpose weigh in favor of prohibiting it. Although the Donor’s motivation was not malicious, state employees may only accept compensation through their state salaries or as otherwise provided by law – the acceptance of ad hoc compensation of this magnitude in cash violates the State Ethics Code and potentially creates administrative issues for state agencies, such as by making it difficult to ensure that state employees are not accepting cash payments from improper sources or ensuring fairness in compensation for state employees.
Given the violation of the State Ethics Code, the Commission believes it is reasonable, fair, and in the public interest to resolve the Charge by
(1) issuing this Resolution of Investigation;
(2) requiring Respondent Bayudan to pay restitution of $16,600 to the Donor;
(3) requiring Respondent Bayudan to pay an administrative penalty of $750 to the State of Hawai‘i; and
(4) referring this matter to the DOE for disciplinary action as appropriate. …
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CB: Honolulu Teacher Violated Ethics By Accepting $16,600 From School Volunteer