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Former City Councilman Nestor Garcia fined for accepting illegal gifts

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Nestor Garcia

Former Honolulu City Councilman Nestor Garcia has reached an agreement with the Honolulu Ethics Commission to pay the city a civil fine of $8,100 to settle allegations that he accepted illegal gifts and failed to report them.

While Garcia is agreeing to pay the city the civil fine to close the case, the commission made no conclusion that he did violate ethics law.

However, “Garcia admitted and acknowledged the alleged violations, and agreed to pay the city treasury $8,100 in civil fines,” the advisory opinion said.

The case stems from an allegation made by former Councilman Romy Cachola — after he was fined last year by the commission — that he was being unfairly singled out. 

Cachola alleged that besides himself, current Council members Ikaika Anderson and Ann Kobayashi received free meals and golf as did former Council members Todd Apo, state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz and Garcia.

It’s not clear if other agreements are being reached in connection with the cases of the others. Commission Executive Director Chuck Totto declined to comment.

Garcia, a KHON TV news reporter, had no comment when reached Wednesday afternoon. He served on the Council from 2003 to 2013 then returned to broadcast journalism.

The advisory opinion said an investigation found Garcia “failed to disclose a conflict-of-interest in 72 bills and resolutions which affected (two unnamed lobbyists’ interests), including legislation affecting rail transit, Kapolei and matters in which (the two lobbyists) testified in support.”

Garcia received $1,764.40 from those two lobbyists “in gifts of free meals and golf to discuss” various matters of interest with them, the advisory opinion said.

The advisory opinion noted that the commission took into consideration that in June 2012, Garcia agreed to pay the city $6,500 in civil fines for failing to disclose a conflict of interest because he was an executive with the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce at the same time he voted on 52 bills and resolutions related to rail transit and rezoning approvals favored by the organization.

The prior misconduct “compounds the nature and seriousness of the allegations in this case,” the advisory opinion said.

The five-page Ethics Commission report does not address the allegation by Cachola and his attorney that the series of improper votes could lead to the invalidation of key legislation allowing for rail and other development.

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