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Meeting Date Time
April 19, 2005 9:04 A.M. Adjourned 10:55 A.M.
Meeting Room One, Mo’ikeha Building – 2 Floor
Chair Sandra Helmer, Vice-Chair Michael Fernandes, Members:, Bill Clifford, Winnie Lu, Robert Farias Also present: Deputy County Attorney Margaret Sueoka, Deputy County Attorney Carmen Wong, and Assistant Barbara Davis. Sam Blair joined meeting at 9:32 a.m.
SUBJECT I. Call to Order
DISCUSSION Chair Helmer called the meeting to order at 9:04 a.m. All members were present with Mr. Farias joining the meeting at 9:05 a.m. Deputy Attorney Margaret Sueoka, Deputy Attorney Carmen Wong and Assistant Barbara Davis were also present Chair Helmer asked for any changes/additions to the agenda. Assistant Davis requested to add under Item V. the Disclosure for Sandy Thomas, Committee on the Status of Women and add the Minutes from April 11, 2005 Workshop. Mr. Clifford asked to add an item under IV. Communications regarding the Charter Commission. Chair Helmer asked any for changes to the minutes of April 1, 2005. Chair Helmer requested that on page 4; item X. Upcoming Meetings that the record reflects the meeting to be held on April 11 to read Regular Session instead of Executive Session. Board Members reviewed minutes of April 11, 2005
II. Approval of Agenda
Mr. Clifford moved to approve the agenda as amended. Mr. Fernandes seconded the motion. Motion carried.
III. Approval of Minutes
Chair Helmer moved to approve the minutes of April 1, 2005 as amended. Mr. Fernandes seconded the motion. Motion carried. Chair Helmer moved to approved minutes of April 11, 2005 as distributed. Mr. Clifford seconded the motion. Motion carried. No action required
Chair Helmer noted that she had written a letter to Personnel (County of Kaua‘i) stating that there is no nepotism clause and requested that a complaint form listing particulars be submitted for further consideration.
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DISCUSSION Mr. Clifford deferred discussion of the Charter Review Commission to the next meeting.
ACTION (defer to 5/2/05 meeting)
Disclosures – 2 for review 1. 2. Robert John Farias, Sr. (Board of Ethics) – revised Sandy Thomas (Committee on the Status of Women) Mr. Clifford moved to accept the disclosure for Mr. Farias and Ms. Thomas. Mr. Fernandes seconded the motion. Motion carried.
VI. Executive Session
Chair Helmer asked for a motion to move into Executive Session at 9:13 a.m.
Mr. Clifford moved to go to Executive Session and to forgo the reading of the following text: Pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes §92-7 (a), the Commission may, when deemed necessary, hold an executive session on any agenda item without written public notice if the executive session was not anticipated in advance. Any such executive session shall be held pursuant to HRS §92-4 and shall be limited to those items described in HRS §92-5(a). Ms. Lu seconded the motion. Motion carried.
VII. Open Session (resumes)
. Open Session resumed at 9:15 a.m.
Mr. Clifford moved to go out of Executive Session and back to Open Session to handle BOE 05-002. Mr. Fernandes seconded the motion. Motion carried.
Attorney Wong requested that the Board hear testimony from her witness and husband, Sam Blair, who will provide his account of a conversation with Tony Sommer. Chair Helmer noted that the Board did not have any doubt about the situation but because Attorney Wong represented the Board, we wanted it all on the table to show that the situation was truly reviewed and
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DISCUSSION not just waived over because of the association between Attorney Wong and the Board.
Attorney Sueoka pointed out that since Mr. Blair had not yet arrived, the Board might want to stay in Executive Session to handle other cases and then move to Open Session when Mr. Blair arrives. Before excusing Attorney Wong, Mr. Clifford stated that he felt the Board had enough information and it did not matter what Attorney Wong may or may not have done, a terroristic threat is a terroristic threat and it is obvious that a threat was made from the information the Board has received. Mr. Clifford further stated that he does not understand why the County isn’t pressing the case against that; they ought to press that simply for precedence sake to see that people don’t do things like that. Could you comment on that before we leave this session? Attorney Wong stated that the complaint was not properly handled and there was interference by the officials. It was very clear, if you look at my letter to the Mayor, why it was not dealt with the way it is supposed to. Any other jurisdiction I would expect they would be on this complaint immediately; they would be looking at it like a first priority. Regrettably in this jurisdiction it is not happening and I think that question ought to be directed to the Prosecutor’s Office; maybe it is a low priority to him. I have sent an email to him inquiring about the status but he has not responded to my inquiry and I am about to make a request for the full police report but I do intend to pursue the handling or mis-handling of this particular complaint. I understand that this Tony Sommer person has moved out of the jurisdiction and so now he is not going to be able to be brought before the law. Chair Helmer pointed out that he had written to the Board that he would come back to testify. Attorney Wong said that the account he had provided to the Board was a complete fabricated account and she would be more than willing to face this person in another setting and is prepared to take it to as far as it needs to go, the Attorney General’s Office, the Prosecutor’s Office. He had filed a false complaint; he had made a false oath in giving his account but whether or not the system will bring him to justice is another story altogether. Attorney Wong said that she was offended by the claim and will do what needs to be done to preserve the integrity of her good name and the office that she represents. Chair Helmer asked Attorney Sueoka if the Board was allowed to write a letter saying that we have received a notice of an incident where someone was threatened in this elected official setting and that we want to know what is happening or is that not part of our jurisdiction? Attorney Sueoka responded that is depends on what is done with this existing complaint which the Board does not seem inclined to uphold. If Attorney Wong files a complaint against the Prosecutor, then it would be appropriate for you to do an investigation but without the complaint, there is nothing to justify it. Mr. Farias pointed out that the Board’s job was look at the complaint to see if Attorney Wong had acted unethically. By (her) filing a complaint, that is by far not acting unethically.
VIII. Executive Session (resumes) IX. Open Session (resumes) BOE 05-002 Chair Helmer stated that Carmen Wong and her husband, Sam Blair, had been invited to the meeting to review the case of BOE 05-002. After all members introduced themselves to Mr. Blair, Chair Helmer asked Ms. Wong if there was anything she would like to add. Ms. Wong noted that she had nothing further to add from what she had Executive Session resumed at 9:22 a.m. Open Session resumed at 9:32 a.m. Mr. Clifford moved to go back to Executive Session. Ms. Lu seconded the motion. Motion carried. Sam Blair and Attorney Carmen Wong entered the meeting at 9:32 a.m.
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SUBJECT DISCUSSION ACTION submitted and that she was not going to go point-by-point into the complaint from Tony Sommer. She did not know where the Gary Heu participation came from and would not even speculate. The whole account from Ms. Wong’s perspective is recorded in the police report, a copy of which the Board has, and the supplemental statements made to Craig DeCosta, the Prosecutor, and the email supplemental statement to Detective Larry Stem which have also been provided to the Board. From Ms. Wong’s review of the records, September 2 was the date of the incident, by September 16th as far as she knows the case in the Police Department was closed. When inquiring about the case in October, some further work was done as Detective Stem had called around and got a statement from me, which I documented in an email, and he talked to Lani Nakazawa. Apparently, Detective Stem did not get a statement from Tony Sommer and to this day, as far as I know, no statement was taken from Tony Sommer except what was related by Tony Sommer regarding a conversation between himself and the Chief of Police. The Chief of Police was simply calling to do quality assurance with the perpetrator. It is completely bizarre the way it was handled and to this day there is no resolution and the only additional point that I want to make is an account that is recited in the statement my husband Sam Blair gave to you. I want to have Sam explain the conversation to you so there will be a record in these minutes. Chair Helmer asked Mr. Blair to give a quick overview of his relationship to Tony Sommer, he claims you are his friend and an acquaintance. Mr. Blair stated that he never did anything socially with Mr. Sommer but got to know him professionally when Mr. Blair was writing a column for The Garden Island. Mr. Blair mentioned that they both had the same philosophical bent which was accountability and openness in government; the good ole boy system and trying to change the culture and so we had that in common. When we would run into each, as I mentioned in my statement, we would chat about local government was doing this or whatever incident ‘du jour’ was on the agenda, we talked about it – that was our relationship. Seeing each other socially, we were not really friends; never had a beer with him but it was always very cordial. Chair Helmer questioned if Mr. Sommer knew that Carmen Wong was Mr. Blair’s wife. Mr. Blair responded that he did. The next incident that occurred was the call from Attorney Nakazawa to Mr. Blair saying there was this incident with Tony Sommer and it was almost unbelievable – it was so bizarre; that was a side of him I had never seen. I thought he was perfectly normal, rational and to hear that somebody you had this relationship with and this commonality did something bizarre, it’s like – wow. My first inclination was to call the police because there was something going on here – may be he has a problem that is below the table, whether it is alcohol, anger management – whatever it is. When Lani told me about the background that she knew about, then I said by all means, she has to make a record of this. She has to get the police involved because if something really bizarre happens, we don’t want to say we should have called the police so it is best to err on the side of caution, call the police, get statements from everybody. The next thing that occurred was this call from Tony Sommer and I said I am not going to get involved in this, this is Carmen’s deal. She is a professional but I am not happy with what I heard happened and he said “Well, I just went off on Carmen. I probably shouldn’t have, really I just lost it because I was looking for these records for so long and I probably shouldn’t have. It was like………this sounds weird. It was a non-apology or a rationalization with bizarre (….unintelligible). It is Carmen’s affair and I am being basically supportive because it was emotionally really traumatizing for her. Chair Helmer noted that especially because the situation took place in an open Council Session and to have everybody just stand around and act like they didn’t see it. Mr. Blair said he understood the dynamics of Tony Sommer and that he had some power because he could write about you and this is what he did, he is a reporter. However, his (Mr. Blair’s) personal philosophy is that for public officials, there should be a zero tolerance policy. When there isn’t, then you are thinking your values are screwed up – so that is my take on what happened. It is a screwed up value system where they protected the perpetrator more than the victim. Most jurisdictions that I am aware of have automatic jail time for somebody that does terroristic threatening, or threatens a police officer, or threatens a judge and it is automatic. There should be zero tolerance and to have a situation right in my own home where my wife – when someone points a finger at his forehead and says ‘you are a target’ – it traumatizes her and nobody does anything. Chair Helmer asked if it was an accurate statement in Tony’s rendition that JoAnn Yukimura called him to inform him that you had gone to the police. Ms. Wong stated that she did not know what transpired in his conversation with JoAnn Yukimura. I was present and personally saw, after the incident, I was stunned. I went into the break room and spoke to the Chair and told him what happened; I had a job to do and Executive Session was about to start so I wasn’t about to do anything right then and there. When I was waiting for Executive Session to start I saw Tony Sommer talking to Lani, I just avoided them and went to the other side of the room and then I saw him talking to JoAnn Yukimura. When she (JoAnn) came back into the room, she said she heard what happened and she said in front of all the Council Members, and I was also there, that she asked Tony Sommer why do you have to take everything so personally? By then, I wasn’t caring what other people’s opinion was, there was a criminal act that was done on me. Chair Helmer asked for clarification if JoAnn Yukimura was saying to Tony ‘why do you take everything so personally’ or to you? Ms. Wong said that the statement was made to Tony Sommer. The whole situation about this complaint to the Board of Ethics was about me mis-using the County letterhead, which is completely ridiculous, about me being the person who filed a false report and this person (Sommer) being able to file a notarized complaint with this Board wasting everybody’s resources and time and it has spun totally out of control. Mr. Fernandes replied that Ms. Wong had every right to use the County letterhead as everything that happened was on County time. Ms. Wong stated that she uses the letterhead very carefully and felt that she had every right and had even shown the letter to
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SUBJECT DISCUSSION ACTION her boss and there was no objection what-so-ever. Ms. Wong continued by saying these things are important and need to be dealt with and the system is not addressing it; she left it up to the system and the system is not handling it so she took it as far as she felt she could. Mr. Fernandes pointed out that there was a police report but he couldn’t make out the signature even though there was a badge number and he can’t make out the signature of the second officer or his badge number. He further stated that there was something totally wrong with that department and he is not sure if it was because the Board had to bring them in for testimony but something has to be done about it. Ms. Wong stated that she intended to make a Police Commission complaint at the right time. Mr. Clifford pointed out that the Board has no control over Tony as he is not a County employee but whatever happened prior to that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that a terroristic threat was made and this is the issue here. Mr. Clifford also asked if it was true that Ms. Wong had quit her job with the County Attorney’s Office to which Ms. Wong replied that she had given her notice. Mr. Clifford stated that he thought Ms. Wong had some idea of who quashed this whole thing and he wanted to know who as there is an Ethics charge against them. Ms. Wong said her account is contained in the letter to the Mayor’s Office and she had recited each and every detail that she knew and had been maintaining a complete file. The investigating officer told Ms. Wong that he had been told not to arrest Tony Sommer by his Chief and his Assistant Chief. I was told by the investigating officer that he was finding it weird that JoAnn Yukimura would want to call Tony Sommer first before she would want to give a statement to an investigating police officer. I left it up to the system to take care of the process, the criminal justice system, the investigation and the prosecution; I left it up to them to do what they needed to do. I am convinced at this point that nothing is going to happen and nothing will be happening as the perpetrator has left the jurisdiction. The full account is in my letter to the Mayor’s Office so you can read it. Mr. Clifford asked if the Mayor had responded to that letter. Ms. Wong responded that there was a meeting that was held but other than that the Mayor told her that there was nothing he could do but she should file a TRO (temporary restraining order) and file a complaint with the Police Commission. Given my position as a Deputy County Attorney and given my background, I did not feel that that was the appropriate action to take at that point. Chair Helmer asked what would be Chief Lum’s motivation to which Ms. Wong replied that she did not know and that there motivation was completely senseless to her. Chair Helmer asked if Chair Asing or any of the Council Members stood up and said this will not be tolerated in our chambers. Ms. Wong stated the only support she received was the letter from Chair Asing to tell her that he would lend her whatever support she needed but the Council is powerless to deal with this perpetrator; the justice system is supposed to take care of that. Ms. Wong further stated that the County was on notice for what happened and it does not bode well for a public employee to have been subjected to that type of treatment. When Chair Helmer asked if someone was standing up and telling Chief Lum to do something, Ms. Wong replied that he is supposed to know his job. As far as the complaint goes, Ms. Wong respectfully asked the Board to dismiss this complaint and clear her name. Mr. Blair said that Tony Sommer has now painted himself as the ‘victim’ rather than the ‘victimizer’ and could only add that he and Carmen had agreed that she needed to get out of that culture; there is a paralysis, a dysfunction in County government and it is a negative vortex that is holding her into it. She can be further pulled into that vortex by filing complaints and lawsuits, suing Tony Sommer and The Star Bulletin and we are not going to do that – we have no interest in any of that. What has to happen is that her name has to be cleared so she can get on with life. Chair Helmer pointed out that the Board had not called on Mr. Blair to question him but rather to put his account on record so that no one could claim the Board had used favoritism or whatever we wanted because we want to be very up front and clear even though there was never any doubt that the Board thought Attorney Wong had acted in an unprofessional way. Chair Helmer stated that she would like to go on record with JoAnn Yukimura’s response (in this matter) as well as Ms. Yukimura’s inappropriately calling Chair Helmer on other matters and the County Council in general for not standing up for the Attorney that they are relying on for advice; the whole thing absolutely smells. Mr. Clifford said that he did not think anyone would do anything unless the Board pushed this matter and expressed his admiration to Mr. Blair and Ms. Wong for their stand on the lawsuits, however this can not be dropped because of the terroristic threatening here – it is against state law and although he has not even thought about it in our State Charter – it can not be dropped. Mr. Clifford asked if Attorney Wong objected to the Board pursuing the terroristic threat, even though the Board will have to go to the Mayor and the Council. Chair Helmer pointed out that as Board members, they do have the right to file a complaint. Mr. Clifford stated that the problem was that this was not an ethics complaint. Chair Helmer said she felt it was a complaint against the County Council for not responding appropriately. Attorney Sueoka cautioned the Board to sit down and think about who all the players are and which ones may have acted unethically, whether it is County Council or some other. Mr. Fernandes stated that he felt the big player was Chief Lum but also expressed his disappointment in the Mayor. Attorney Wong said that she sees her role as being as supportive as she can in her remaining time as an attorney and in the future, as a public citizen, she will continue to support all the work the Board does and be vocal. Attorney Wong said that the complaint from Tony Sommer has been one of the most negative things in her life and the positive side is it has brought to light all these underlying issues so maybe something good will come out of this ugly incident. Attorney Wong further stated that by the Board dismissing the complaint, it would help provide closure for her. Mr. Clifford moved that the ethical charges against Carmen Wong be dismissed and that this Commission find no unethical activity on her part. Mr. Fernandes
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SUBJECT seconded the motion. Motion carried.
Mr. Blair and Attorney Wong departed the meeting at 10:02 a.m. The meeting recessed briefly Mr. Fernandes moved to return to Executive Session at 10:07 a.m. Ms. Lu seconded the motion. Motion carried. X. Upcoming Meetings XI. Adjournment The next meeting is set for Monday, May 2, 9:00 a.m. in the Liquor Conference Room, 1st floor, Mō‘ikeha Building. Meeting adjourned at 10:55 a.m.
Chair Helmer moved to adjourn meeting. seconded the motion. Motion carried.
Submitted by: ___________________________________________________ Barbara E. Davis, Assistant Date: April 25, 2005 ___ Minutes approved as is. ___Minutes approved with corrections. See minutes of __________ meeting. Approved by____________________________________________________ Sandra Helmer, Board Chair
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