Honolulu City Councilwoman Andria Tupola likely broke city ethics laws when she tried to use $1,500 of city funds to reimburse herself for items purchased for events from her former employer, determined the Honolulu Ethics Commission.
The West Oahu representative purchased “banners, chairs and promotional materials for Covid-19 vaccination and testing events” hosted by the company she worked for, S&G Labs Hawaii, according to the Honolulu Star-Announcer. She then sought reimbursement for the items using city funds in August and September, according to the opinion of an ethics commission issued on Wednesday.
“Because (Tupola) has a financial interest and, therefore, a conflict of interest, (she) should not have sought reimbursement with city funds,” the opinion read.
He said the first request was processed from the Tupola City Council’s discretionary account – each council member receives an annual allowance of $25,000 – but a second request was rejected by “a supervisory officer”. who claimed that Tupola had a conflict of interest. Tupola then contacted the ethics commission for advice, according to the notice.
The ethics commission determined that Tupola had a conflict of interest, likely violated the city’s fair and equal treatment law, and should return the money.
Tupola has refunded $1,119 and will donate the city chairs she purchased for the event, worth $400, her office told the Star-Advertiser.
In a statement, Tupola said she had sought advice from outside legal counsel regarding reimbursement and was told that it was fine as there were many bands attending the event, there was “no preference” for his former employer and S&G had none. city contracts.
Despite that advice, Tupola said she still contacted ethics director Jan Yamane to “further clarify any conflicts of interest,” Tupola said. Yamane suggested the matter be taken to the commission for a formal written decision, according to Tupola.
“After receiving the decision, the Council member tupolaStaff members reimbursed the city for the purchase of zip ties, cones, rebar, flyers and water for community events where his former employer was the primary attendee,” Tupola said. .
“During these unprecedented times, I needed to bring resources to my community who did not have access to testing and vaccination events. I am not perfect but my priority is always to serve my community. I will continue to address any future issues or situations through the commission as good practice,” she added.
The opinion does not directly name Tupola. Instead, he refers to her as “City Officer.” Ethics Commission lawyer Laura Wong-Nowinski said that was because it was a request for an advisory opinion, not an ethics violation complaint.