THE CARROLL COX SHOW
NEWS AND COMMENTARY
EMAILS REGARDING DJOU’S BUSINESS TRIP TO JAPAN
Following are emails I sent to Mr. Djou requesting information regarding his business trip to Japan for the city, accompanied by his son, and his responses to those emails. Mr. Djou would not answer the questions and referred the matter to his attorney. Mr. Chuck Totto of the Ethics Commission worked at break neck speed to give an opinion regarding my complaint but did not produce any documents. He was only able to conclude that “Also, it appears that Councilmember Djou personally paid for his son's air fare before the start date of the trip and paid for his son's other expenses as they arose during the trip.“ I smell a cover up on the part of the ethics commission and will only change my mind when Mr.Totto produces documents and other records regarding this matter. Mr. Djou was eager to present the letter to me and claimed that the matter was resolved with no findings of wrong doings. He failed to mention that I had requested the Ethics Commission review Totto’s decision. Therefore this matter is not resolved as Djou claims.
Also, note Djou’s claim that he was not wrong in posting photographs of himself in military uniform on his campaign website. Djou did not have the disclaimer that is required when using military photographs in campaign materials when I made my original query some months ago. It was only recently added to his website.
Original Message -----
Thank you for your response. First I would like to respond to your continued concerns about statements I made regarding you using your uniform on your congressional campaign website.
You, your staff and supporters have ignored my original remarks about your picture in your Military Uniform on your web site for Congress. For the record I will kindly repeat that Lt. Col Edwards of the Army Inspector General's office advised me that "campaigning in uniform is against Department of Defense Regulations". You may call the Inspector General's office and make the same inquiry.
Regarding your threatening comments and lack of response to my questions: Like you, I also spoke with Mr. Harumi "Danny" Oshita. Mr. Oshita told me that you reimbursed him for your son's expenses after the trip to Japan. You acknowledge that your son did accompany you to Japan and you also stated "All of the expenses for this trip related to my son, however, including the airfare, were paid for by myself out of my personal bank account. The only expenses I accepted were done in accordance with the City gift rules and fully disclosed four years ago ''. You also indicated that you referred my questions about your taking your son on an offical city business trip to Japan to your attorney. Just out of curiousity, why did you call Mr. Oshita after I sent you the questions, particularly when this matter was resolved two years ago and you could just refer to your checking account to answer my questions. Was it to get your story straight?
Let me remind you that this trip was a gift to the City and County of Honolulu for official business. The gift was donated to the city by IES Hawaii Inc. at a value of $15,000.00. My questions serve only one purpose, and that is to maintain transparency in our government, ensuring that ethics and other rules are obeyed by our public officials. I find it ironic that you, City Councilman Charles Djou, who are repeatedly before the cameras talking about ethics and transparency in government, improper use of government funds, and calling into question your fellow councilmen, are now threatening legal action against a citizen who bothered to ask you questions regarding your son's accompanying you on an official business trip to Japan. I believe that the public has a right to ask questions. This is an opportunity for you to provide accurate responses so we don't go away distorting or misrepresenting your record.
You acknowledge that you paid your son's expenses from your personal bank account. Again, I am asking when, why and who did you reimburse for your son's expenses. As I stated earlier, Mr. Oshita told me that you reimbursed him after you returned from Japan. If that is the case, then you used money belonging to the City and County of Honolulu for personal matters.
Once again, I would appreciate your providing specific answers and comments to my questions so that I can accurately inform the public about your actions regarding this trip. I am planning on discussing this matter in a future radio show, but would first like to give you an opportunity to respond to my questions and concerns. If you are not going to respond, please let me know.
From: Charles Djou
To: Carroll Cox
Mr. Cox, again, this trip to Japan in 2006 taken by my son was personal and was prepaid with personal funds prior to the trip being taken. Aloha.
Dear Mr. Totto,
Please accept this letter as my formal complaint against City and County of Honolulu's Councilmember Charles Djou. Specifically, I am asking your office to investigate Mr. Djou's possible use of funds donated to the City and County of Honolulu by Mr. Harumi "Danny" Oshita of IES Hawaii Inc. for three Councilmembers to travel to Japan in 2006 . In a March 19, 2010, telephone conversation with Mr. Oshita, he told me he believed that Mr. Djou reimbursed him for travel expenses incurred by his son on the trip but does not recall specifically when that may have occurred or the exact circumstances. In Mr. Djou's March 19, 2010, email to me (attached), Mr. Djou confirmed that he allowed his son to travel with him on this official trip. If Mr. Oshita's recollection is accurate or true, this would suggest that Mr. Djou's use of some of the donated money for his son's expense to Japan would constitute a loan of City and County of Honolulu's monies.
In response to the questions I posed to Mr. Djou regarding this matter, Mr. Djou did not provided specific answers relating to the method of payment for expenses incurred for his son's travel with him to Japan. I appeal to your office to investigate this matter to determine if Mr. Djou's actions are consistent with City ethics rules and laws. The matter could be easily and quickly resolved if Mr. Djou would simply provide me with specific answers to my questions and produce copies of receipts and records in this matter. Instead, he threatens me with possible legal actions and carbon copied you and his attorney regarding my inquiry.
-------- Original Message --------
RE: Complaint, Djou, EC No. 10-081
Thank you for bringing your concerns to the attention of the Honolulu Ethics Commission.
You raised the issue whether Councilmember Charles Djou used city funds, that had been donated in 2006 to the city from IES Hawaii, Inc., to sponsor Councilmember Djou's and two other councilmembers' site visit to Japan to review municipal solid waste management and disposal systems, to pay for his son's travel as he accompanied Councilmember Djou on the trip. If Councilmember Djou had used city funds in this manner it could be a violation of RCH Sec. 11-104, which prohibits the use of city resources for non-city or personal purposes.
In investigating this matter, I interviewed Councilmember Djou and Harumi "Danny" Oshita of IES Hawaii, Inc., as well as reviewing the information you submitted and relevant personal financial records. It appears that no funds were actually transferred from IES, Hawaii, Inc., to the city. IES, Hawaii, Inc., covered the costs of the councilmembers' trip as those costs arose. Also, it appears that Councilmember Djou personally paid for his son's air fare before the start date of the trip and paid for his son's other expenses as they arose during the trip. Based on the information obtained, there is insufficient evidence to find probable cause that Councilmember Djou violated RCH Sec. 11-104 or any other ethics law. Therefore, the Commission will be closing its investigation.
My conclusion is based on my experience and my understanding of the relevant law and Commission precedent as they apply to the facts of the case. If you believe that I have erred in my conclusion, you have the right to request that the Commission review the case and makes its own determination of probable cause. If you decide to do so, please make your request in writing and provide your reasons for requesting a Commission review.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
CHARLES W. TOTTO
Subject: RE: Complaint, Djou, EC No. 10-081
Secondly, I understood that this gift of $15,000.00 never entered City coffer, and this money was a gift and would not be governed by the normal City and County accounting requirments.
Moreover,I have been informed that the Honolulu Ethics Commission received an anonymous complaint about this matter around the time this trip was taken, and your office allowed Mr. Djou to take care of the matter because it was a gift by IES Hawaii, Inc. to the City and County of Honolulu and did not require the matter to be reported to the City and County of Honolulu or the Ethics Commission.
are more disturbing allegations surrounding this matter, i.e., that you
personally extended this courtesy to Mr. Djou because Mr. Djou would accommodate you by introducing future legislation on behalf of your office.
I would greatly appreciate it if you would provide me with a formal statement detailing the specific date Mr. Djou paid for the trip, the parties to whom the payment was made, and the method of payment that was used. I prefer to rely on rely on facts as opposed to speculation and "appearence".
Dear Mr. Cox:
I am a contract attorney for the Honolulu Ethics Commission. I am writing to you for several reasons. First, I will be handling the investigation into your complaint against Councilmember Charles Djou regarding his trip to Japan in 2006. I understand that Mr. Totto informed you that he had made an initial determination that there was no probable cause to find that Mr. Councilmember Djou violated a city ethics law, and on that basis the investigation was being closed. Mr. Totto has determined that the case will be reopened and the Ethics Commission concurs with the decision to reopen the investigation, reassess whether there is probable cause of a violation, and to assign me to handle the investigation.
Second, in your March 25 and March 30, 2010 emails to Mr. Totto, you requested that the Ethics Commission review his determination that there was no probable cause and his handling of the investigation. As noted above, the investigation into your complaint and the assessment of whether there is probable cause of a violation is ongoing. Once I am finished with my investigation, I will make a recommendation to the Commission as to whether or not there is probable cause of a violation. At that point, I will inform you of my recommendation and I will submit my recommendation to the Ethics Commission for its review.
At its meeting yesterday, the Commission considered the statements you made in your email questioning Mr. Totto’s impartiality and your dissatisfaction with his investigation. The Commission has asked me to inform you that it finds no basis to question Mr. Totto’s impartiality or his handling of the investigation into this matter. The Commission did, however, agree with Mr. Totto’s voluntary decision to remove himself from the investigation and to assign the case to me. Further, the Commission asked me to inform you that if you wish to make a complaint against Mr. Totto, it requests that you submit a detailed written statement setting forth the factual basis of the complaint.
Please contact the me if you have any questions regarding this matter. I plan to be in contact with you as I conduct my investigation.
Matthew J. Viola
Attorney for the Honolulu Ethics Commission
Re: Ethics Commission Complaint
EC No. 10-081(w)
Dear Mr. Cox:
This is in response to the request for records from the Honolulu Ethics Commission that you made in your March 30, 2010 email to Charles Totto, Executive Director and Legal Counsel. In your email, you requested “copies of all documents submitted by Mr. Charles Djou to the Ethics Commission regarding his travel to Japan on official business.”
In its investigative file, the Commission has copies of pages from Mr. Djou’s check register from July 2006. Pursuant to the Uniform Information Practices Act, Hawai`i (UIPA), Hawai`i Revised Statutes (HRS) Chapter 92F, these records are not disclosable for the following reasons:
(1) disclosure of the records would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy (HRS §§ 92F-13(1); 92F-14(b(6)); and
(2) disclosure of the records at this time would frustrate a legitimate government function, insofar as the Commission’s investigation into your complaint against Mr. Djou is ongoing and the disclosure of records could interfere with the investigation and impede the Commission’s ability to obtain additional information and documents in its investigation. (HRS §§ 92F-13(3).
In addition, Revised Ordinances of Honolulu § 3-6.3(j) restricts the Commission members and its staff from divulging information related to your allegations.
Please contact me if you have any questions regarding this matter.
Matthew J. Viola
Attorney for the Honolulu Ethics Commission