Former lawmaker at center of corruption scandal could keep pension benefit despite new law

Lawmakers previously watered down a bill that would've applied to situations like this.
Published: Feb. 13, 2022 at 6:07 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 13, 2022 at 8:46 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Back in April 2021, former Senate Majority Leader Kalani English voted with his fellow senators on a bill that would force government employees to lose their pension benefits if they were convicted of a felony.

It was a reform measure introduced in wake of the Kealoha scandal. But the bill English voted on was a watered down Senate version — allowing a judge to garnish only half of a government worker’s pension if convicted.

It also exempted English because it only applied to public employees who committed felonies after June 2021.

“When the bill moved over to the Senate from the (House) Finance committee, it required garnishing 100% of a convicted felons’ pension. When the bill came back those provisions were gone,” said former City Councilmember and ex-state lawmaker Ikaika Anderson.

“If the intent is to garnish the state pension of a pensioner convicted of a felony, then garnish the pension, the entire pension and have the bill apply to anyone who committed these felonies ... rather than forgive any prior felonies that occurred before the act was passed.”

According to the legislative history of HB670, the Senate inserted the language placing a 50% limit on the pension benefits. The Senate also insert language in the bill, saying it “shall not apply to felonies committed prior to the effective date.”

That law took effect in June 2021 — or about six months after Choy allegedly paid his final bribe to English.

Anderson believes English had a conflict of interest when he voted on the measure. “Certainly, you don’t vote on legislation that would affect you,” he said.

English and his attorney could not be reached for comment.

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