HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
State Rep. Romy Cachola has been fined $50,000 by the city Ethics Commission, Hawaii News Now has learned.
A 22-page commission advisory opinion alleges that Cachola accepted dozens of free meals and golf outings paid for by lobbyists, abused his city vehicle allowance and failed to disclose conflicts of interests on votes involving lobbyists who showered him with gifts.
"For 12 years, Councilmember Cachola sat on the council committees that had jurisdiction over ethics laws and policy," said the opinion, which was signed by Executive Director Chuck Totto.
"His being a Council leader for ethics laws and policies makes his violations much more pernicious."
The fine is part of a settlement between the commission and Cachola, in which the Kalihi Democrat made no admission of wrongdoing.
It comes after Cachola was fined $2,500 by the state Campaign Spending Commission and agreed to repay $32,000 for using campaign funds to buy a car and pay for its upkeep
"The way the opinion came about is not fair at all especially to my family who is suffering," Cachola said.
Attorney Michael Green said his client is being singled out since other Council members received similar gifts. He said Cachola wanted to fight the charges but settled to avoid a lengthy and costly legal and emotional battle.
"I hate to see this summary which just makes it look like he was walking around with a mask and a gun," said Green.
"They write this junk which makes this guy look like he's been a thief for 30 years instead of doing the people's work."
While the charges may be damaging to most lawmakers, Cachola is running unopposed, a point some voters are resigned with.
"I don't think we should keep reelecting people with ethical problems but it's kind of bad if there's no one running against him," said Makoto Fukino of Waianae.
But some say he's represented his community well, despite the ethical lapses.
"When you're in politics that long I guess you seem to build up more skeletons in the closet," said Kent Thompson of Aliamanu.
"He's very popular as far as the issues go. I think he does well."
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