Maile Shimabukuro, Senator, Hawaiˈi State Senate, Alleged Violation of Fair Treatment Law
Hawaii Ethics Commission, Resolution of Investigation 2022-2 (COMPL-I-22-00194), September 21, 2022 (excerpts)
… . On June 4, 2022, the Nanakuli community held a parade to celebrate several Nanakuli School student athletic teams. Respondent Shimabukuro arranged with the parade organizers to attend the parade in her official capacity in order to present legislative certificates to the student athletes and to make a short speech congratulating the students.
e) The day before the parade, on June 3, 2022, Respondent Shimabukuro called one of her legislative aides who had taken personal leave on that day. The legislative aide was also an occasional volunteer for Respondent Shimabukuro’s reelection campaign. Respondent Shimabukuro asked the legislative aide to put together small “goodie bags” containing snacks to distribute to the Nanakuli School student athletes at the parade.
f) The legislative aide purchased the snacks and assembled approximately seventy goodie bags. The bags were clear plastic and filled with several types of snacks. The legislative aide assembled the goodie bags while on personal time and did not use any state resources. Respondent Shimabukuro used her personal funds to reimburse the legislative aide for the cost of the goodie bags.
g) While assembling the goodie bags, the legislative aide attached a small card used by Respondent Shimabukuro’s candidate campaign committee to each goodie bag. The card featured a photograph of Respondent Shimabukuro, the name of her campaign committee, “Friends of Maile Shimabukuro,” and contact information for the campaign committee. The cards were taped to each goodie bag and were clearly visible.
h) Respondent Shimabukuro and the legislative aide maintain that Respondent Shimabukuro did not suggest or direct that the cards be placed in the goodie bags. Respondent Shimabukuro accepts responsibility for their placement in the bags and the distribution of the bags at the parade.
i) On the morning of June 4, 2022, Respondent Shimabukuro met the legislative aide at the beginning of the parade route at Nanakuli School. The legislative aide brought the goodie bags she had assembled and placed them on a table provided by the parade organizers.
j) Respondent Shimabukuro stood near the table with the goodie bags and made a short speech congratulating the student athletes. She presented the legislative certificates and invited the student athletes to take a goodie bag. Respondent Shimabukuro did not mention her reelection campaign nor her campaign committee during her speech.
k) Respondent Shimabukuro had access to the table and was able to present the goodie bags to the student athletes solely because of her position as a member of the Senate who attended the parade for an official purpose. The parade organizers did not want the parade to be politicized and therefore did not invite other candidates for election to display or distribute campaign materials at the parade. …
The Fair Treatment Law, HRS § 84-13(a), prohibits a legislator from using his or her state position to secure or grant an unwarranted benefit or advantage for himself, herself, or anyone else. A legislator is prohibited from using his or her position as a legislator to unfairly benefit the legislator’s candidate campaign committee. The Commission’s investigation showed that Respondent Shimabukuro attended the parade in her official capacity as a member of the Senate. She then displayed and distributed campaign material at the parade. By using her official position to gain access to parade resources and participants and then promoting her candidate campaign, Respondent Shimabukuro violated the Fair Treatment Law. …
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