Ethics charge dropped against Naeole

Puna County Council candidate and former Councilwoman Emily Naeole gave the Board of Ethics a piece of her mind Wednesday after the board voted it had no jurisdiction over an ethics complaint against her.

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Puna County Council candidate and former Councilwoman Emily Naeole gave the Board of Ethics a piece of her mind Wednesday after the board voted it had no jurisdiction over an ethics complaint against her.

Naeole, no stranger to the Ethics Board, said she barely had enough gas to get to Hilo for the meeting, but she had to come and assert her rights. She denied she’d done anything wrong.

“Someone’s been trying to put me down,” she told the board, adding it took three and a half years to re-enter the political scene after her 2010 loss. “To me to step back into the race … barely two months after I started campaigning … I’m stepping back up and this is the kind of thing I have to put up with.”

Naeole is a candidate in a District 4 race that also includes incumbent Greggor Ilagan, Madie Green and Roy Lozano. The complaint was filed by Pahoa resident Arthur Varady.

Varady said in his complaint that Naeole came into the Pahoa Senior Center on May 9, announced she was running for office and gave the site manager 20 tickets to a fundraiser to distribute. She said she’d asked for 90 tickets but the printer gave her 900.

“To me, this is a clear ethics violation,” Varady said.

Section 2-83 of Article 15 of the Hawaii County Code of Ethics prohibits county employees and officers from using county time, equipment or facilities for campaign purposes. But it doesn’t cover candidates not employed by or officials of the county, the board concluded in a unanimous vote.

Board member Arne Henricks questioned the double standard.

“That would make two classes of candidates running for office, with two different rules,” Henricks said.

“Maybe it’s something that should be taken up by the state Ethics Commission, not by us,” he added.

Dan Cole, speaking in testimony before the meeting, characterized the complaint as a “political violation to intimidate or extort” an elected official or candidate. Cole questioned why Varady’s name was redacted from the complaint, saying people have a constitutional right to face their accuser.

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The Ethics Board later released Varady’s name.

The Board of Ethics has twice found Naeole in violation of the ethics code, in particular the portion of the code requiring county officers to give “fair, courteous and impartial treatment.” In 2009, the board cited her for throwing a pen during public testimony and for making thumbs-down gestures behind the back of testifiers.

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