June 26, 2012 at 7:52 PM HST - Updated June 27 at 4:21 AM
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – A relatively minor flap about parking at a garage near City Hall has landed Windward Oahu City Councilman Ikaika Anderson in hot water with the City Ethics Commission.
Like all nine Honolulu city council members, Anderson pays for a reserved parking stall where he parks his red Volvo SUV in the Frank Fasi Municipal Building Parking Garage.
In December of 2010, city parking employees put a parking violation warning on his car because it was parked not in his reserved stall, but in a stall set aside for other city employees who also pay monthly parking fees.
So Anderson went to the city's parking office to try to straighten things out.
"The council member had misused his position in order to try to get basically a waiver of a parking issue," said Chuck Totto, executive director of the Honolulu City Ethics Commission.
Totto said Anderson, who is the council vice chair, threatened parking employees with re-introducing a bill that would have put council parking stalls under jurisdiction of the council, instead of the mayor's administration, meaning some parking staff could lose their jobs.
"He was shouting and threatening. The witnesses there, each one, felt that he was threatening either employment or to change the parking rules,"
Totto said, quoting testimony of four parking employees and two other people who were in the office at the time of the incident.
Anderson declined an on-camera interview and released a statement that said, "No threats of any kind were made nor did I use any profane or vulgar language. Nonetheless, I do regret the incident and sincerely apologize for its occurrence."
Totto said the city Ethics Commission is not fining Anderson because it feels that publicizing this incident is punishment enough. Besides, Totto said city taxpayers didn't lose any money because of Anderson's misconduct.
Totto said the case should send the message to top city officials: "You cannot abuse that power. That power is not there to help you get special treatment on something, or to get favorable treatment. It is there to help you carry out your city work."
Council members and their staff say they've been frustrated for years by what they call the "rigid, inflexible" parking staff who strictly enforce parking rules without exceptions.
Council Chairman Ernie Martin questioned the need for a year-and-a-half ethics investigation over a parking flap that he said could have been solved with better communication on both sides.
"The Ethics Commission's ten-page opinion issued eighteen months after the incident was done at taxpayer expense and does little to resolve the underlying tension that exists" at the parking structure, Martin said.
"A more productive course of action would have been for the … complaint to have been brought to the council chair's attention for remedial action which would have, at a minimum, resulted in a counseling session and subsequent apology from Councilman Anderson to the affected employees, just as he expressed his regrets over the incident and apologies to those employees today," Martin said.
Anderson's statement said, "In late December 2010, I allowed a constituent, who was meeting with me, to park in my reserved stall in the City parking garage. Around the same time, a staff member inadvertently parked my car in the assigned stall of another council member, which resulted in the other council member parking their car in my stall. At the parking office's direction, I entered the parking office to discuss these matters. In light of the circumstances – the limited public parking available for my constituent due to Honolulu City Lights, an honest mistake resulting in my car and a colleague's car being inadvertently parked in one another's stalls, and the fact that I pay a monthly fee for use of the stall - I was understandably frustrated."