There are currently eight members of the Maui Board of Ethics. Each is appointed to five-year terms by the mayor and confirmed by the Maui County Council. According to the county’s website, the Board of Ethics “Initiates, receives, hears and investigates complaints of violations of the County Ethics Code by employees and officers of the County.” It’s also the body that “initiates impeachment proceedings against elected officials and officers appointed to elective office who have been found in violation of the Code of Ethics of the County.”
When I plugged in the names of the current Board members into the Hawaii State Bar Association’s online membership directory, I came up with nothing. Instead, the members work in real estate, organized labor, investment and even law enforcement (according to this 2012 County of Maui newsletter, Noreen “Dee Dee” Yabuta–wife of former Maui Police Chief Gary Yabuta–works as a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security).
Now Maui County Councilmember Elle Cochran wants to change that with a charter amendment that would require at least two Board of Ethics members be licensed attorneys.
“The Board of Ethics has powers that can have long-term legal implications to the county,” Cochran said in a May 5 news release. “They can even initiate impeachment of an official. Having members on the board with knowledge and understanding of the legal process would be beneficial to their purpose.”
Cochran also proposed another charter amendment that would “require the Maui, Lanai and Molokai planning commissions to include an officer from an organization that advocates for Hawaiian cultural resources or practices and an officer from an organization that advocates for environmental protection and conservation,” stated the news release.
If the County Council approves the amendments on two readings, they’ll go before the voters.
Photo courtesy County of Maui