Ethics Commission says UH free ticket policy broke ethics law, needs changes

Ethics Commission says UH free ticket policy broke ethics law, needs changes
Published: May. 30, 2013 at 9:48 PM HST|Updated: May. 30, 2013 at 9:53 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The State Ethics Commission is recommending that the University of Hawaii revamp its complimentary ticket policies because UH has been breaking ethics laws by giving away too many freebies to staff and family members.

UH issued new policies last September that clamped down on how many free tickets UH officials and their family members can receive to UH games, such as football and volleyball.

But the Ethics Commission said that policy still violates state ethics law.

"There's a number of areas where the commission has commented where they think the policies allow tickets that may be inconsistent with the state ethics code," said State Ethics Commission Executive Director Les Kondo.

The commission voted unanimously in a 4-0 vote Wednesday to approve the guidance to UH, which it issued Thursday.

"What the commission is saying is that just because you work at the university and you hold a certain title at the university, you're not entitled to a complimentary ticket or a complimentary season ticket," Kondo said.

The Ethics Commission said the UH president, UH Manoa chancellor and members of the Board of Regents serve a "protocol function" at UH games and other events. So ethics commissioners said those top UH officials are allowed one free ticket for themselves and a second ticket for their significant other. But they'd have to purchase tickets for other family members, Kondo said.

For other UH employees, even high-level officials such as vice presidents and vice chancellors, the Ethics Commission recommended a much stricter policy.

"Complimentary tickets can only be issued if there's a legitimate state purpose, in other words if an employee needs to be there for a work purpose," Kondo said.

That means the UH employee must actually be working at the game to get a freebie.

Kondo gave examples such as, "Where a university official is hosting a donor or potential donor. Or perhaps someone from a different university, a counterpart from a different university."

Over the last three years, former UH Regent Michael Dahilig received dozens of UH tickets worth $5,359, sometimes receiving three, four and in one case seven free tickets to different UH games. This policy would not allow that to happen again.

Dahilig, whose regent's term expired last year, applied to become the Board of Regents' executive secretary, a six-figure position that has been vacant for the past six months.  The regents have not taken action on that appointment.

The commission is leaving implementation up to UH.  The university did not respond to Hawaii News Now's request for comment by late afternoon Thursday.

"The university has been very cooperative in trying to adjust their policies to be consistent with the commission's position with respect to how it interprets the ethics code," Kondo said.

He said he has had numerous discussions with UH General Counsel Darolyn Lendio, the UH's top lawyer, about the issue.

Asked why the public should care about free UH tickets, Kondo said, "They have a relatively significant dollar value associated with a football ticket, for instance, so the commission's viewpoint is there needs to be somebody that is watching over these tickets and is making sure that they're given away for legitimate purposes."

Copyright 2013 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.