Ethics Fines Issued To Hawaii Education Department Officials

Nov 25, 2019

Three supervisors in Hawaii’s Department of Education have been fined for misusing state employees for private construction projects, officials said.

The state Ethics Commission fined the supervisors in the department’s facilities maintenance branch, Hawaii News Now reported.

The commission issued a fine of $11,000 against Scot Sueoka, the department’s general maintenance and services supervisor. Engineer William Gebhardt was fined $3,500 and administrator Francis Cheung was fined $750 for misusing state employees.

“Subordinates can feel coerced or pressured to do work for their supervisors even if may not want to,” commission Executive Director Daniel Gluck said.

Sueoka hired department maintenance branch staff for construction work on his homes in Kailua and Pauoa between 2013 and 2018.

The ruling was “unfair,” said Sueoka, who argued the work was done on weekends and not during the employees’ state work hours. He paid the market rate of about $300 dollars per day to the workers, who are all his friends, Sueoka said.

Sueoka believed the arrangement did not violate state ethics law but agreed to settle after the commission told him he faced fines of up to $143,000, he said.

One of his subordinates worked 20 days on each of those homes at no cost to Sueoka, the commission said.

“At the time my friend — my real close friend who is a carpenter — was undergoing cancer treatment,” Sueoka said. “There was no way he could help me 20 days.”

An education department spokeswoman declined to comment.