HILO — The county Board of Ethics finds itself in the unusual position of having an ethics complaint levied against it, along with its attorney.
Rob Tucker, a Puna prefab structure builder, filed the complaint because he alleges his constitutional due process rights were ignored in 2016 when he filed two ethics complaints against officials in the county Building Division.
There is no precedent for an ethics complaint against the Ethics Board itself. The County Council on Wednesday is scheduled to consider Resolution 258, authorizing up to $1,000 to bring a Maui attorney over to handle the complaint because of a conflict of interest.
The majority of the Board of Ethics is now composed of members who had not voted on the 2016 cases.
Tucker, owner of Modular Farm Buildings, had filed this first complaint over what he saw as preferential treatment of some builders over others.
Tucker said Monday his beef with the Building Division has since been resolved. But he remains at odds with the Board of Ethics and the board’s Deputy Corporation Counsel J Yoshimoto over the way his case was handled.
“If the ethics commission’s job is to enforce ethics within the county government, I just really couldn’t let it pass that they lack the ability to process my hearing under the rules of the law,” Tucker said. “There were at least three lawyers in the room and they all should know what the principles of discovery and cross-examination are.”
Tucker in early 2018 had brought a similar complaint to the ethics board, but withdrew it after the board agreed to hold a meeting with him to discuss board policies and procedures.
Yoshimoto said Monday he can’t talk about the case.
“I am not able to provide any information at this time pursuant to Board Rule 4.13 on Confidentiality, which states that ‘All records, reports, documents, exhibits, and other evidence received by the board shall be held in confidence, and no information as to the contents thereof shall be disclosed unless such items are presented and received by the board at a hearing or meeting that is open to the public,’” Yoshimoto said.
Board members seemed favorable to making changes at a future meeting as part of a thorough overhaul. The overhaul has been discussed over the past year or so and is now scheduled for discussion at the board’s November meeting.
Tucker’s 2016 ethics complaints, with his name blacked out, were forwarded at the time to the Building Division for review. The division, with county-provided legal counsel, drafted a response that was circulated only to the board.
Yoshimoto at the time said confidentiality rules prohibited Tucker from getting a copy of the response until it came before the board. He declined further comment on the case.
Tucker saw the response for the first time when he appeared before the Ethics Board to discuss his petition. The board subsequently dismissed both complaints based on a lack of an alleged violation.