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Hawaii schools charity effort violates ethics code

December 6, 2013 - 10:29pm

HONOLULU — Hawaii public school teachers and administrators who are encouraging students to participate in a private holiday charity campaign are violating the state ethics code, according to the state Ethics Committee.

The panel found out the public school teachers and administrators were participating in a Macy’s campaign that raises money for the Make-A-Wish foundation from letters to Santa. The commission issued an advisory Thursday saying state ethics code prohibits state employees from using work time and state resources for nonstate related business, including supporting private charities, Hawaii News Now reported.

According to the advisory, public school teachers and other state Department of Education employees can’t send emails asking others to participate in the promotion using school computers or the state’s email system. School facilities can’t be used to receive or collect the letters to Santa.

Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi will be meeting with commission officials to discuss the advisory, said Department of Education spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz. “The Department of Education encourages students to be good citizens and that includes helping others in need,” Dela Cruz said.

This is an example of the rules’ unintended consequences, said state Sen. Sam Slom. “When my colleagues and I introduced legislation a couple of years ago to make it tougher, we’re talking about the egregious violations of the law,” he said. “Make-A-Wish Foundation is a fantastic organization.”

Representatives for Macy’s and the Make-A-Wish Foundation couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday.

If a state employee is considering fundraising activities using state resources, the commission recommends the employee first consult with commission staff.