City considers hiring outside party to audit ethics commission

The city may spend as much as $100,000 auditing the processes of the Honolulu Ethics Commission.

The Honolulu City Council is requesting the review after the recent departure of its longtime executive director amid tensions with the mayor’s administration, the police chief and his wife. Now under new management, many are calling the audit a path toward a fresh start.

The council is backing a resolution introduced by Trevor Ozawa that started as a request to have the city auditor do a management and performance checkup on the Honolulu Ethics Commission.

With the former acting state auditor Jan Yamane now in the role of city ethics director, the city’s auditor said a third-party should be hired to do the review instead, since all of those departments and their leadership work so closely together.

“It would be a very good opportunity to see where we can improve, whether things need to be changed, and what we can do at the council to instill more public trust in government and the commission itself,” Ozawa said.

“I think it will do well to have a review of the ethics commission and their processes, and there is room for improvement,” said Honolulu city auditor Edwin Young. “The question then becomes who should do it and that is where we have to professionally step back.”

The city auditor estimated an outside accountant, management or law firm would likely take on such a job for between $25,000 and $100,000.

The review would follow the tumultuous past several months in which now-ex-ethics director Chuck Totto, who had the job for decades, quit the commission after the board members questioned and investigated his conduct, and in the midst of a lawsuit police chief Louis Kealoha and his wife filed against the agency that investigated their conduct.

Also in executive session at the council Tuesday, members reviewed measures to hire three different outside law firms to defend the ethics commission, Chuck Totto, and a former investigator for the Kealohas’ lawsuit.

It’s not yet known how much each of those jobs will cost taxpayers.

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