Duties

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission’s mission is to preserve the public’s confidence in our government by promoting high ethical standards among public servants.  The Commission administers the State Ethics Code and Lobbyists Law, and provides the following services:

1. Guidance
  • Informal Guidance: We have an Attorney of the Day available to take your calls or e-mails. Anyone can call the Commission to obtain fast, confidential guidance from our staff. The Commission’s attorneys answer questions on all aspects of the State Ethics Code, including the following:
    • Whether a gift may be accepted (including whether you may accept travel expenses – like airfare and hotel stays – paid for by private organizations or other government agencies to attend work-related events);
    • Whether a situation constitutes a conflict of interest or a violation of the State Ethics Code;
    • How to file financial, gifts, and lobbying disclosures;
    • Whether a state employee or legislator is permitted to use state resources for a particular purpose;
    • What restrictions apply to state employees after leaving their state employment.
  • Formal Guidance: The Commission also issues formal Advisory Opinions upon request. After receiving a signed request for a formal opinion from the Commission itself (See Hawaii Administrative Rule § 21-4-1), the Commission will issue a written ethics opinion. A redacted version of the Opinion (taking out the requestor’s name and other identifying information) is then posted on the Commission’s website and serves as precedent for later ethics questions. If you are considering a formal request for guidance, please contact us and we will guide you through the process.
2. Educational Training
The Commission’s mission includes educating state officials and employees about ethics in government. Each year, the Commission provides training to over 1,500 legislators, state employees, and lobbyists on how to comply with the State Ethics Code and the State Lobbyists Law. Please contact the Commission if you would like to schedule a training session, or see our calendar of upcoming trainings here.
3. Ensuring Compliance with Disclosure Laws
The Ethics Code requires that approximately 1,900 state officials file annual financial disclosures; the Ethics Code also requires any state official who receives certain gifts to report those gifts to the Commission. Similarly, the Lobbyists Law requires that lobbyists register with the Commission and that they (and their clients) file expenditure statements several times per year. These filing requirements help provide transparency and accountability in state government. The Commission ensures that state officials and lobbyists comply with these requirements.
4. Enforcing Ethics and Lobbying Laws
The Commission also enforces the State Ethics Code (Hawaii Revised Statutes chapter 84) and the State Lobbyists Law (Hawaii Revised Statutes chapter 97). The Commission receives and reviews complaints, and conducts confidential investigations concerning potential violations of the law. If appropriate, the Commission may initiate formal charges against individuals and proceed to a contested case hearing in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act. If a violation is found, the Commission has the authority to levy fines of up to $1,000 per violation, and other penalties may also be imposed.

We look forward to working with you to promote ethics in state government!