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Ethics Commission slaps $50K fine on lawmaker

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  • Opponents could be using the inquiry to discredit him, Romy Cachola said.

The Honolulu Ethics Commission is imposing its largest-ever civil fine on state Rep. and former city Councilman Romy Cachola for multiple alleged violations of city ethics laws.

The commission said in a news release Saturday the $50,000 fine is part of a settlement.

The commission said Cachola collected more than $9,000 from the city for expenses related to his SUV, even though his political campaign fund was already reimbursing him for the same expenses.

He also allegedly accepted dozens of prohibited gifts — including meals at high-end restaurants and golf outings — from lobbyists who had matters before the council.

In a statement Saturday, Cachola said he was unfairly targeted by the commission and Executive Director Chuck Totto. He chose to settle rather than incur more than $125,000 in legal fees to defend himself.

He said the commission’s opinion paints him as “an intentional violator of the ethics laws” but that he is not.

At the same time, he said, other Council members accepted gifts, mainly food and beverages, from lobbyists but were not targeted by the commission.

“I am pleased that the investigation has come to a conclusion and no finding of fact or opinion as to any violation has been found,” he said. “I agreed to a settlement of $50,000 with the Ethics Commission in order to prevent any further defamation of my name and hardship to my family and legal fees and costs in excess of $125,000 to defend and clarify the circumstances. The advisory opinion states there was no violation and I maintain that I did not intentionally violate any ethics laws and I will support the passage of clarifying laws to further direct the Commission’s activities and prevent Mr. Totto from unfairly being selective in his interpretation and prosecution of the laws.”

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