The state Ethics Commission voted yesterday to fire Executive Director Daniel Mollway based on an investigative report critical of his work habits and management style.
The commission’s report, prepared after complaints from staff, questioned whether the commission could function after concluding Mollway was "not appropriately engaged" as an administrator and was damaging staff morale.
The commission voted 5-0 in executive session to fire Mollway, who has served as executive director for 24 years. Susan Yoza, associate director, will step in to replace him until the commission replaces Mollway.
Commission Chairwoman Maria Sullivan said Mollway’s dismissal was based on the findings of the investigative report. A version of the report was released publicly, but some of the information was kept confidential because it involves personnel matters.
Mollway, who has been on paid leave since February, said he is contemplating legal action to challenge his firing.
He said the commission first raised issues with his work habits, particularly his use of sick leave and vacation days, in December and imposed new work guidelines on him. Mollway said he had taken allowable time off from work to cope with migraines.
In January, Mollway said the commission told him to retire or resign.
"It seems like it was predetermined a long time ago," said Paul Saito, Mollway’s attorney.
Saito said Mollway, as an at-will employee, can be terminated without explanation, "but it can’t be an illegal reason," as an illness might be.
The report did not find that Mollway engaged in any misconduct, and praised his skill and intellect.
"I enjoyed working for the commission, and I believe that I’ve achieved a lot and I don’t believe that I’ve done anything that warrants this at all," Mollway said. "I believe that my work has been competent."
Common Cause Hawaii, the League of Women Voters of Hawaii and others praised Mollway and questioned the process the commission used to fire him.
Patrick Boland, a former administrator of the State Health Planning and Development Agency, said the commission should have clearly informed Mollway of the problems they had with his work habits, guided him on how to correct the situation, then provided time to see whether he improved.
Boland described firing Mollway as the "nuclear option" and said it appeared extreme given the nature of the findings in the report. He warned that the decision could lead to the "loss of public trust and respect" for the commission.