Posted at 10:46 a.m., Friday, August 30, 2002
Ethics panel dismisses Dems' Lingle complaint
The Democratic Party filed the complaint two weeks ago, saying former Maui Mayor Lingle violated Maui's code of ethics in 1998 when she used county staff and resources to issue a news release related to her gubernatorial campaign against Gov. Ben Cayetano.
The news release, dated Feb. 4, 1998, was titled, "Lingle Refutes Allegations and Pledges to Stick to Real Issues." Democratic Party Chairwoman Lorraine Akiba said it was sent on county letterhead and urged the media to contact Lingle's public information officer. The party also filed a complaint with the state Campaign Spending Commission, saying that Lingle didn't report the use of county staff for the release.
Maui Board of Ethics member Ed Bello said the board dismissed the complaint against Lingle after about 10 minutes of discussion with only one member voting against the action.
"The board decided it wasn't worth dealing with," Bello said. "I think basically we felt it was pretty politically motivated."
He said he believes that the Democratic Party had the right to make the complaint, but the board noted that "if it was really a big deal, they should have brought it up a few years ago."
Bello said legal issues also remain about whether the board could still deal with such a complaint because Lingle is no longer a county employee or a Maui resident.
Lingle campaign attorney Nelson Befitel said: "It was obvious that the Democrat Party was trying to use the Board of Ethics to further their political agenda. I think this sends a strong message that the board will not allow itself to be used and abused for political purposes."
Akiba could not be reached for comment this morning.
The Democratic Party's complaint followed the Republican Party's state Ethics Commission complaint against Cayetano, which contends the governor was wrong for having the state Tax Department analyze Lingle's economic plans. Cayetano said it was his responsibility as governor and that he would also examine the budget plans of Democratic gubernatorial candidates. That complaint is still pending.