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Ethics Commission: Mayor can use city resources for ‘Keep Hawaii’s Heroes’

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The Honolulu Ethics Commission Wednesday reaffirmed an earlier informal opinion by its staff that said Mayor Kirk Caldwell and other city officials were acting within the scope of their duties when they used city resources to rally the community behind an effort to stave off a possible downsizing of military troops on Oahu.

When the city placed petitions opposing downsizing in its satellite city halls, Makaha resident Al Frenzel, director of the Oahu Council for Army Downsizing, challenged the move before the Ethics Commission. Frenzel argued that Caldwell was improperly using city resources because he siding with one side of a controversial issue over another.

Frenzel’s group supports the turnover of Army facilities and land to the state.

Laurie Wong, associate legal counsel for the Ethics Commission, told Frenzel in late December that the “Keep Hawaii’s Heroes” initiative, which the city is co-sponsoring with the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, falls into the realm of a “project with community-wide benefit” thus making it eligible for city resources.

The commission, in its formal opinion Wednesday, said “the issue will affect the city’s budget and ability to provide services.” As a result, the mayor “has the inherent authority to address this issue and implement a policy regarding this issue including asking for public support for the project.”

The petition drive is over and the signatures collected were sent to the Pentagon, a city official said.

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