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Hawaii State Agencies Work To Implement New Nepotism Law

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission is delaying enforcing the state’s new nepotism law to give state employees more time to comply with the new guidelines.

The Legislature put in place a nepotism law this past session that took effect last week. On Wednesday the commission approved a two-month delay in enforcing the provisions.

The law prohibits nearly all state workers, except for employees of the Legislature and the Judiciary, from employing or supervising a relative. It also bars state employees from awarding contracts to businesses owned by relatives or household members. 

It ensures “that people going into government are doing so based on merit, not simply based on relationships that they have,” said Robert Harris, executive director and general counsel of the ethics commission.

For those who currently supervise a relative, the commission suggests delegating employment decisions for that person to another agency employee. Supervising employees may apply for an exception, in which they must provide good cause for hiring the relative, such as a lack of other qualified applicants. 

The commission has been advocating for a law that prohibits nepotism in the government since the 1970s, according to Harris.

“It’s been an ongoing cause or issue that people have been interested in since that long,” he said. 

State agencies will need a bit more time to get up to speed on the new law.

For instance, OHA Trustee Brickwood Galuteria’s daughter serves as one of his two aides. Galuteria has submitted an application for exception, and “will abide by whatever decision is handed down,” he wrote in an email.

The state Department of Agriculture is “currently reviewing staffing in all divisions” and plans to follow guidelines provided by the ethics commission, according to a spokesperson for that office.

Meanwhile, the state Department of health says it is awaiting guidance from the Department of Human Resources and Development, a DOH representative said in an email.

The Department of Education already has an anti-nepotism policy that bars employees and volunteers from hiring and supervising family members.

Source : CivilBeat