Editorial | Our View Cabanilla vote crossed a line By Star-Advertiser staff May 3, 2014 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. What state Rep. Rida Cabanilla dismisses as mere "hoopla" over her control of a defunct nonprofit granted $100,000 by the Legislature actually signifies serious concerns that surfaced just in the nick of time. Although lawmakers allotted the amount, Gov. Neil Abercrombie has not released the money — and he should not. It’s unconscionable that grant-in-aid requests with broad support in their communities went unfunded in favor of the House majority floor leader’s pet project, one in which Cabanilla’s own constituents have little interest, judging by the lack of volunteers she cited as a reason for her needing to spearhead the initiative in the first place. Moreover, the state taxpayers’ money Cabanilla insists the Ewa Historical Society needs to fix up the dilapidated Ewa Plantation Cemetery would apparently replicate the efforts of the city government, which since last year has contracted with grounds-keeping crews to maintain the cemetery, where plantation workers from an earlier era are laid to rest. The upkeep of this site is important, but the worthiness of the goal does not excuse the questionable tactics employed here. Most galling, though, are the obvious ethical questions arising from Cabanilla’s close ties with the Ewa Historical Society, which lost its federal tax-exempt status last year for failing to file tax returns for three consecutive years, and her eventual vote to fund what amounts to her own grant-in-aid request. Lawmakers contend they were unaware of those ties when they, too, approved the grant request as part of the overall budget. The grant application clearly lists Cabanilla’s son, who also is her legislative office manager, as vice president of the Ewa Historical Society and designates Cabanilla and two of her legislative aides as members of the nonprofit’s board of directors, although it’s plausible to believe that inattentive legislators may not have read the paperwork. Cabanilla is seeking reinstatement of the nonprofit’s status and insists that the completed grant application makes her actions "completely transparent" and utterly proper. But that blithe view overlooks that she should have broadly disclosed her ties to the nonprofit, or at the very least asked House leaders whether she should declare a potential conflict before voting on the state budget that contained the grant-in-aid for the Ewa Historical Society. Although the state’s conflict-of-interest law does not generally apply to lawmakers, internal Senate and House rules urge lawmakers to disclose potential conflicts. Cabanilla’s assertion that the grant application sufficed as disclosure falls flat, and should be reason enough for the governor to reject this funding request. This sorry episode highlights the need for lawmakers to tighten their own ethics rules, and to more carefully review all grant-in-aid applications. Competition is always fierce for limited taxpayer support of worthy causes. Lawmakers received more than 230 grant-in-aid applications this session, seeking a total of $147 million, yet approved only 55 for a total of $10 million. The approval of Cabanilla’s questionable bid is wrong in any budget scenario, but especially when funding is so tight. If community volunteers emerge to vouch for the Ewa Historical Society and this cemetery project, funding can be sought more legitimately next year. Previous Story Off the News Next Story Clamp down on abusers of 'farmlands'