HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The director of the art gallery at Kapiolani Community College has paid a $2,000 fine after running afoul of state ethics laws, Hawaii News Now learned Friday.
David Behlke, a KCC faculty member, has overseen the Koa Gallery on the KCC campus for 19 years.
A student worker at the gallery complained Behlke assigned his university employees to do work for his private side art business.
"Mr. Behlke was using state resources, which includes student employee time, his own time, KCC equipment, KCC resources such as computers, emails, their web page, to support a private business activity, his own private art business," said Les Kondo, executive director of the State Ethics Commission.
Behlke did not contest the ethics charges and agreed to pay a $2,000 fine but claims he did not know his actions violated state ethics laws.
Behlke declined an on-camera interview, but said by phone: "I acted innocently and I have a new appreciation for the state ethics code."
Behlke said he attended a state ethics workshop earlier this fall.
"We all learn from our mistakes," Behlke said.
Kondo said the student worker originally complained to KCC administrators many months ago, but after she saw no action coming from the community college, she filed her complaint with the State Ethics Commission.
Kondo said this case serves as an important reminder for all state employees.
"The state ethics code just does not allow state employees to use state resources. And that means state time, state employees, state equipment, state facilities," Kondo said.
"That's just common sense," Kondo added.
But it might be surprising that another practice that was happening at KCC's Koa Gallery is against ethics laws.
The Ethics Commission said Behlke was hiring some of his university subordinates and paying them from his personal funds for outside work, something that's forbidden.
"A supervisor is not allowed to engage in a financial transaction with his subordinate. So in other words, if you worked for me, I couldn't sell you my car, even if you wanted to buy it, even it was a great deal," Kondo said. "Unfortunately, I think there are many state employees who are unaware of the state ethics code and more importantly the restrictions that the code imposes upon state employees."