Kierkiewicz disclosure, Ethics Board presentation planned

HILO — It’s been almost three months since the Board of Ethics approved an advisory opinion requiring Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz to file an after-the-fact written disclosure of a possible conflict of interest stemming from a vote she took earlier this year.

At its Aug. 14 meeting, the board also agreed that Chairman Rick Robinson would make a presentation to the council to reinforce a “mandate for the council, collectively and individually, to place a more focused perception regarding any potential or existing conflict of interest.”

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The disclosure and the presentation are slowly coming together.

The Ethics Board took on the case after a petition signed by 39 people questioned whether Kierkiewicz had a conflict of interest in introducing a bill, chairing a committee considering the bill and voting on the bill without disclosing that she was employed by a public relations company that represents officers of the landowner in the zoning application.

After the ethics complaint was filed, Kierkiewicz announced her resignation from Hastings &Pleadwell and orally disclosed her connections to Steve Ueda, president and CEO of Matsuno Enterprises, which owns the property where another company seeks to install a potable water well and build a bottling plant.

Kierkiewicz had voted for the bill in committee, saying it would open the land up for other uses even if the bottling plant failed, according to the committee report.

Kierkiewicz said Tuesday the disclosure is forthcoming.

“I’ve drafted a disclosure, which I plan to finalize and submit to the county clerk this week,” Kierkiewicz said.

The presentation to the council has encountered a snag, however, as Council Chairman Aaron Chung and the Board of Ethics work out the details. That was supposed to happen today, but the Board of Ethics meeting was canceled due to lack of a quorum.

Robinson, in an Oct. 1 letter to Chung, requested time at a council meeting to make a presentation.

Chung’s Oct. 9 response agreeing to a presentation included several caveats. Chung said he needed to know the scope of the intended presentation.

If it will have any “direct or tangential connection” to Kierkiewicz’ ethics case, “I will require a written letter from the board that the Kierkiewicz case is final and binding and that no further actions are anticipated on the matter,” he said.

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If the case is closed, then Chung also wants the transcripts from the board’s executive sessions on the matter be opened to the public, as is required under the state’s public records and Sunshine laws.

“I think you understand that I need to ensure that the council meeting is not used as a vehicle that would prejudice a council colleague in an outstanding case,” Chung said.

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