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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 20, 2006

GOP legislator calls for ethics inquiry

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

State House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan has requested that the Hawai'i State Ethics Commission investigate whether state Rep. Jerry Chang, D-2nd (Hilo), broke any ethics laws over his potential financial involvement in a deal for a new motorsports complex on O'ahu.

Chang was a sponsor of a bill that would have provided a $50 million tax credit to attract investors to a new racetrack. But the bill was dropped after Chang disclosed a potential conflict because he has part ownership interest in land that was being offered in trade to the state to acquire a parcel for the racetrack.

Finnegan, R-32nd ('Aliamanu, Airport, Mapunapuna), had asked House leaders to appoint a special committee to investigate whether Chang violated the House's code of ethics. But House Speaker Calvin Say, D-20th (St. Louis Heights, Palolo, Wilhelmina Rise), declined earlier this month after deciding that Finnegan's allegations did not rise to a level that warrants an investigation.

Say wrote in a letter to Finnegan that Chang had "at most, a potential and not an actual conflict of interest." Say also said he advised Chang that he should "take care, as we all should, to arrange his finances in such a manner as to minimize potential conflicts in the future."

The state has no conflict-of-interest laws that apply directly to lawmakers, but the House can discipline its own members for violating a code of ethics.

"When there is an incident as significant as this one, we owe it to the public to investigate and see it through to the truth," Finnegan said in a statement yesterday.

"We can't let things like this get swept under the carpet. If we let things slide, everything we do at the Capitol becomes tainted."

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.