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2 Hawaii Department of Transportation employees to pay fines for personal use of highway equipment

Two state Department of Transportation employees have agreed to pay fines and face potential DOT discipline after a supervisor allowed an employee to take a Bobcat skid-steer home for personal use this month and used a DOT truck and trailer on state time to transport the Bobcat.

The state Ethics Commission said on Friday that Robert Chang, construction and maintenance superintendent of the DOT’s Oahu District Highways Division, will pay an administrative penalty of $1,000 after Chang admitted to violating the state Ethics Code’s “Fair Treatment Law.”

The Ethics Commission said, “The State Constitution mandates the highest standards of ethical conduct by all state employees. These standards of conduct do not allow state employees to use their official positions to obtain unwarranted personal privileges or advantages. Employees who are entrusted with state property and other state resources for the performance of their official duties must uphold the public’s trust by ensuring that state property and state resources are used for official purposes only.”

Chang has supervisory authority over approximately 100 DOT employees and directly supervises 10 or 11 of them. He has indicated he will comply with the Ethics Code from now on, according to the Ethics Commission.

DOT carpenter Randy Keopuhiwa, who is licensed to operate the Bobcat, also admitted to violating the Fair Treatment Law and has agreed to pay an administrative fine of $1,500 and comply with the Ethics Code.

A DOT crew had been working on a multi-day project near Keopuhiwa’s home in Nanakuli, when Keopuhiwa asked for and got permission from Chang to take the Bobcat to his house and use it to clear debris, according to the Ethics Commission.

Keopuhiwa “reasoned” that it would be easier to store the Bobcat at his home instead of driving it back and forth from the DOT base yard near Daniel K. Inouye each day, the Ethics Commission said.

With Chang’s permission, Keopuhia used the Bobcat to clear rocks, mud and other debris at his home from approximately Nov. 2 through Nov. 10, according to the Ethics Commission.

“The fact that a supervisor purportedly gave Respondent Keopuhiwa permission to deliver and use the Bobcat does not insulate Respondent Keopuhiwa from responsibility for the ethics violations here: as the Hawai‘i Constitution states, the high ethical standards expected of all government officials shall ‘come from the personal integrity of each individual in government.’”

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