And it seems one of the more surreal controversies in state politics is now at an end. After months of speculation, backbiting, teeth-gnashing and a little hand-wringing now and then, the state Ethics Commission has decided that Les Kondo can keep his job as the commission’s executive director.
“The head of the State Ethics Commission is keeping his job even though some of his bosses wanted to fire him,” Hawaii News Now’s Keoki Kerr reported on June 10. “Some politicians, including State House Speaker Joe Souki, have accused Les Kondo of being overly aggressive in enforcing the state’s ethics laws.”
Let’s think about that a moment. The whole Ethics Commission thing exists to make sure public officials–appointed and elected–in the State of Hawaii behave in an ethical manner. If anything, we want this body to be, for lack of a more technical description, as damned hard-ass as possible. And yet, Kondo–who’s held the job since 2011–has been under fire for exactly that attitude.
“Kondo has been criticized by legislators for clamping down on gifts from lobbyists, including free tickets to charitable events,” Ian Lind wrote in a May 27 Honolulu Civil Beat story. “In a scathing April 26 letter, House Speaker Joe Souki called on the commission to ‘disavow’ all of its new and more restrictive positions taken since Kondo’s appointment.”
What’s more, Lind wrote, the Ethics Commission has been handling criticism of Kondo in secret. “Little has been made public about Kondo’s review, and nothing has been revealed about the criteria or procedures that have been used,” Lind reported.
In any case, Kondo survived, and for now at least, Kondo’s decisions and actions in regards to holding state legislators accountable will remain. Hopefully.
Photo of Hawaii state capitol: xpixupload/Wikimedia Commons