Maui News

Senator Jarrett Keohokalole reaches settlement agreement in ethics investigation

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Senator Jarrett Keohokalole (District 24 – Kāne‘ohe, MCBH, Kailua, He‘eia, ‘Āhuimanu)

Senator Jarrett Keohokalole reached a settlement agreement and resolution of investigation that he signed and filed Friday morning with the Hawaiʻi State Ethics Commission.

Sen. Keohokalole, who represents District 24, which includes Kāne‘ohe, MCBH, Kailua, He‘eia, ‘Āhuimanu, issued a statement saying he has been cooperating with the Commission for the past few months regarding a review of three legislative reimbursements he received.

According to the senator, two were for plane tickets to legislative conferences, and one was for food for a town hall, totaling $1,264.04.

“I paid upfront for these expenses with campaign funds, and sought a reimbursement through my office’s legislative allowance. While those reimbursements were permissible under the rules, I deposited the reimbursement funds into my personal bank account instead of my campaign account by mistake,” Sen. Keohokalole said in a statement. The action was considered a violation of the Fair Treatment provisions of the State Ethics Code, and the senator was ordered to return the reimbursement and pay an additional penalty of $1,500. 

“I am embarrassed by this situation. These were mistakes that could have been easily avoided. I take full responsibility for my actions, and when I was notified of an investigation, worked openly with the Ethics Commission to resolve the matter, including voluntarily providing our expense reports and bank statements. I have also made changes to our accounting processes both personally and in my office to ensure that this does not happen again,” said Sen. Keohokalole.

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The plane tickets purchased were for attendance at the 2018 Council of State Governments Western Legislative Academy in Colorado Springs, CO and for attendance at the 2019 National Conference of State Legislatures Emerging Leaders program in San Jose, CA. The remaining purchase was for food provided for a community town hall in Kāneʻohe in January of 2020. 

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“Government transparency matters. Details matter,” he said.

“In light of the range of recent reports of misconduct by government officials, I felt it important to disclose these violations immediately and publicly, so that my constituents and community understand that I take these matters and their trust seriously. I am moving to resolve them in the most accountable manner possible.” 

Last month Former Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English of Maui and state Rep. Ty Cullen were accused of taking bribes and receiving payment for actions involving cesspool legislation.  Both pleaded guilty to a single count each of honest services wire fraud. Sentencing for each individual is set before Judge Mollway on July 5, 2022.

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