Council re-vote on rail measures considered

Published: Sep. 2, 2015 at 10:35 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 3, 2015 at 5:21 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu City Council Chairman Ernie Martin said he's considering holding a re-vote on nearly a dozen rail transit-related bills tainted by ethical conflicts by former city Councilmembers Romy Cachola and Nestor Garcia.

"As a matter  of transparency, as a matter of restoring public confidence in the project, I think the council will consider taking these matters back up," Martin said.

Martin said he's asked staff to look into the legality of rail measures and resolutions dating back to 2006. Cachola was fined a record $50,000 by the city Ethics Commission for accepting gifts from lobbyists linked to rail and for not reporting potential conflicts on votes affecting that lobbyist. Garcia was fined $8,100 for similar ethics breach allegations.

The move comes as Campbell Estate heiress Abigail Kawananakoa is threatening to sue the city if it doesn't cut off funding on some rail projects voted on by Garcia and Cachola. Kawananakoa's attorney said the ethical conflicts are deep.

"This was an institutional failure. We're not talking about one or two measures. We are aware of over 100 bills and resolutions where councilmembers didn't disclose conflicts prior to voting," said lawyer Bridget Morgan.

"The process here was dirty and it needs to be cleaned up."

Besides rail, Morgan said measures that need to be voted on again including a number of land-use and development bills approved by the council. She believes Garcia was well aware of the conflict reporting requirement but chose not to disclose those conflicts when it came to rail votes.

"Here are over 60 disclosures Garcia chose to make on other measures. So it appears to be a deliberate and systematic violation of ethics laws," she said.

The re-votes could happen as early as this month. With several miles of track already laid, they're not likely to put a halt to the project. But they are likely to satisfy critics who say the city hasn't been transparent enough.

"The public is entitled to honest government. We're doing this to restore public trust in the system. If nothing is done, people will get the message that they can continue to buy votes," Morgan said.

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