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Unfair advantage, insider information considered in state ethics advisory

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Jul 16 2013 06:35:00 PM HST

University of Hawaii's Board of Regents are given recommendations in new UH president search.

HONOLULU -

It was a single comment that triggered first a red flag, and now action.

Two months ago, then-regent Artemio Baxa had this to say about replacing outgoing University of Hawaii President MRC Greenwood.

"Right in this very room, even among us the Board of Regents, there might just be some to qualify to be University of Hawaii president," Baxa said.

Baxa said he was talking about regents John Holtzman and Chuck Gee.

Both said they weren't interested in the job.

But the state ethics commission took it as a cue to lay down some ground rules in the situation where a member is interested in a job that needs board approval.

The advisory noted, "The situation raises a number of issues about the fairness or propriety of the hiring process, both real and inferred, and erodes public confidence in government."

The commission issued the advisory saying any member who wants to apply, needs to resign from the board first.

"The state ethics code prohibits an employee, from among other things, using his position to give himself an unwarranted advantage," it noted.

According to the commission, that advantage can also come in the form of "insider information."

The advisory comes as the board has been grappling with filling a position for board secretary.

It's a position that has been vacant since last year, in part because of what some say was a potential conflict of interest, when then regent Michael Dahilig applied for the job before he stepped down from the board.

The board, with the addition of new members, is to meet Thursday.

It will take up the issue in a closed door-session, and get an update on the search for a new president.

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