City Ethics Commission struggles to meet mandate without an investigator

City Ethics Commission struggles to meet mandate without an investigator

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A week ago, Lehua Rosa filed a complaint with the Honolulu Ethics Commission after she says she was wrongfully terminated from her job at the city's real property assessment division.

When she didn't get a response, she called and the phone rang and rang. So she sent off an email.

The response she finally got surprised her. It said, "We are unable to handle your complaint at this time as we do not have an investigator. We hope to have an investigator within the next month or two."

Rosa called the situation shocking.

"I'm so frustrated," she said. "It's like they don't care about me and they don't care about doing things right."

The situation caps off a year of turmoil for the commission, the body charged with advancing ethical standards in city government.

In May, its only investigator quit after being on the job just a few months.

A month later, longtime Executive Director Chuck Totto resigned after being accused by Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife Katherine, a deputy city prosecutor, of engaging in vindictive investigations.

Former Mayor Peter Carlisle said it's past time the commission got its act together.

"The critical aspect for city government is for it not to be corrupt," he said. "If you don't get somebody in that position immediately ... there is nobody who is checking the pulse of ethics in the City and County of Honolulu."

Jan Yamane, the commission's new executive director, declined to go on camera but told Hawaii News Now that she's in the process of hiring an investigator.

In the meantime, she said, complaints aren't being turned away. They're just being handled slowly.

Figures reported to the commission last month put the number of outstanding complaints at 69. In addition to the executive director, the commission employs an attorney and two law clerks.

The ethics commission says its first priority is answering requests for advice, which are often time sensitive.

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