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Cachola: Ethics findings could invalidate rail, other key decisions

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State Rep. Romy Cachola says former colleagues on the Honolulu City Council accepted the same meals that Ethics Commission staff accuse him of taking illegally.

And if that’s the case, Cachola says, their actions collectively could call into question the legality of some crucial decisions the Council has made, including ones that cleared the way for the city’s $5.26 billion rail project.

Chuck Totto, executive director for the city Ethics Commission, said he and the commission will look into Cachola’s allegations.

“We’ll give it the same analysis he got,” Totto said. However, Totto said, Cachola’s revelations are “a way for him to distract media and public from what he’s done … It’s not a defense for him to say somebody else did it, too.”

Last week, Cachola (D, Sand Island-Kalihi-Airport) agreed to pay the city $50,000 to settle claims that the commission staff levied against him involving alleged ethical breaches during his time on the Council,  2000-2012. The settlement is the largest amount ever paid out by a party being investigated by the commission.

Cachola settled charges last week — without admitting guilt — that included accepting gifts valued at $3,820 consisting of meals, wine and golf outings from lobbyists, and then failing to disclose conflicts of interest when he voted on more than 100 bills and resolutions tied to rail transit, construction and rezoning that those same lobbyists represented.

Cachola said that if he accepted gifts, he has Excel worksheets — extrapolated from information provided by the commission staff as they investigated him — showing that up to five former colleagues also accepted the same gifts in at least 11 instances.

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