The following embedded letter was sent to Speaker Souki in response to his complaint to the State Ethics Commission on April 27, 2015.

The letter supports the enforcement efforts of the Commission and points out that Representative Souki as Speaker of the House has over-stepped his authority by requesting that the Commission throw aside its last 5 years of rulings.

Representatives Ward and McDermott conclude their letter by requesting that Speaker Souki disavow and withdraw his letter to the Ethics Commission in the same spirit and manner he requested the Commission to disavow their ethics enforcement rulings since 2010.

June 15, 2015

Representative Joseph M. Souki,

Speaker of the House

Hawaii State Capitol

415 South Beretania St

Honolulu, HI




Dear Speaker Souki:

This letter is in response to your April 27, 2015 letter to the Ethics Commission Chairman, Mr. Edward L. Broglio, in which you appear to chastise the Commission and its new Executive Director, Les Kondo, for too aggressively implementing the Ethics Law in its recent rulings and regulations.


When you signed your complaint as Speaker of the House, it gave the impression that you spoke for the entire House of Representatives. In this matter, you do not, and we believe that such a letter should not have been written by you, but perhaps by a lesser member of your leadership team who would not be speaking for the entire House and painting us all with the same broad brush strokes of anger with the Ethics Commission.

While we support the option of teachers and parents to serve as chaperones for student field trips and obtain free travel tickets, (which a DOE policy statement to the Ethics Commission could easily resolve) we are not in support of your complaints to the Ethics Commission in the manner and context in which you have described them.

In particular we see the role of the Ethics Commission as one of aggressive enforcement to uphold the law as described in the Standards of Conduct (“Conduct Code”) that was passed by the State Legislature in 1967 and the State Ethics Commission that was created by the Constitutional Convention of 1978.

Recently increased enforcement by the Commission has made the ethics code come to life and reach beyond the mere platitudes it was in the past when enforcement of the code was a rare exception. The ethics code has helped preserve what public confidence remains in government and elected officials. Without strict enforcement, the Code has no meaning or merit and merely creates cynicism on the part of the public and hypocrites on the part of public servants. The way we handle “conflicts of interest” on the Floor of the House is a good example of this where the appearance of a conflict is obvious, yet your consistent rulings of “no conflict” are based on a technicality in the law. As legislators, a proactive Ethics Commission should be welcomed and respected by all of us, however inconvenient for some in the legislature that may be.


Criticizing the Commission for carrying out its duty is in essence, criticizing the Legislature for failing to properly write the law as it was intended. The Commission is thus doing the job the Legislature has directed it to do; that is “to liberally construe [the Ethics Code] to promote high standards of ethical conduct in state government” and to “render advisory opinions” to determine whether “a particular case constitutes or will constitute a violation of the code of ethics.”

Furthermore, “high standards of ethical conduct” should not be interpreted to mean what was considered appropriate fifty years ago, but should be interpreted and applied within today’s context, which the Commission is doing. As a society, we must grow, change, adapt, and progress or face living in an antiquated island state. To do otherwise is a disservice to our residents and our legacy of public service. Some will still remember when it was considered “ethical” for legislators to fly first class on taxpayer funds up until the mid-1990’s.

It is also notable that our own Legislature time and again chooses to exempt itself from the higher ethical standards that we require of other public servants, thus missing opportunities for us to lead by example. Such is the case with your present letter that will further serve to thwart public confidence in elected officials. In view of the recent scandal with Honolulu City Council Members regarding perks and conflicts of interest and their votes on the rail project, all elected officials are again a suspect class in the public’s eye. National media attention attracted by your letter has also been cause for embarrassment of policy-makers in Hawaii.

Lastly, it is one thing to complain that Commissioners have over-stepped their authority, but it is entirely another thing for you to formally ask the Commission to disavow its rulings from 2010 to the present. This flamboyant request clearly indicates that you are overstepping your authority as a Representative and especially as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

For the above reasons, we respectfully disagree with your letter and stance on the Ethics Commission and its Executive Director’s interpretation of the Code and applaud the Commission and its staff for vigilantly upholding the Standards of Ethical Conduct in our state. We also believe there is still time to raise the bar of ethics in government, and we suggest and humbly request that this start with your disavowing and withdrawal of your letter of April 27, 2015 to the Ethics Commission.

With Sincerely Aloha,

Rep. Gene Ward                                             Rep. Bob McDermott

Opening Up Roads, Lines Of Communication

midweekThinking Different by Representative Andria Tupola

With Hawaii’s hurricane season here now, it is of utmost importance that communities open up lines of communication to each other to build an emergency plan together.

We can’t predict natural disasters, but we can proactively prepare our homes and communities.

In June 2013, I attended my first evacuation drill at Nanakuli High School and was inspired to organize a subsequent drill and fair.

I envisioned a drill at Nanakuli High School, which currently is the only designated emergency shelter for the Waianae coast, combined with a fair involving first responders and community groups to disseminate information on emergency access roads, food storage, water purification and 72-hour kits.

Lines of communication have been opened between first responders, and the conversation has opened up about the need for a secondary access road into the Waianae Coast.

My office will host an Emergency Preparedness Fair and Drill from 9 a.m. to noon June 27 at Nanakuli High School.

We will have informational booths and live evacuation drills, and all the emergency access roads will be opened!

I am working with the Navy and HPD to arrange for the community to familiarize itself with the access roads and simulate a scenario to prepare for the opening of access roads.

This is an opportunity for individuals and families to really experience what it would be like if there was a need to use the access roads, if they had to evacuate their homes to a shelter, or if they had to remain in their homes and use food storage to survive.

Come check it out! There
will be food vendors, entertainment, prizes and much more.

Most importantly, you will learn about being prepared!

Headshot Andria TupolaContact state Rep. Andria Tupola, R-District 43 (EwaVillages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Lualualei, Maili) at 586-8465 or

Talk Story with Rep. Feki Pouha – DOT June 2015

Representative Feki Pouha discusses Department of Transportation is issues with Representative Jarrett Keohokalole and Edwin H. Sniffen, Deputy Director of DOT.   Follow DOT on Facebook and Twitter (DOTHawaii) for road work updates.

Reps Pouha Keohokalole and Ed Sniffen Olelo 2015

Representative Feki Pouha, Edwin Sniffen, Deputy Director of the DOT and Representative Jarrett Keohokalole


McDermott’s Message – Diamond Head Lighthouse

Representative Bob McDermott speaks with Rear Admiral Cari B. Thomas – U.S. Coast Guard and Gary Thomas, about the Diamond Head lighthouse.  Rear Admiral Thomas assumed duties as Commander, Fourteenth Coast Guard District in May 2013.    The area of responsibility spans over 12.2 million square miles and includes the Hawaiian Islands, Guam, American Samoa and activities in Saipan, Singapore and Japan.    This encompasses a region nearly three times the size of the continental United States.

Admiral Thomas and Gary and Rep Olelo show

Representative Bob McDermott, Rear Admiral Cari B. Thomas – U.S. Coast Guard and Gary Thomas

The house that hemp built

Star Advertiser June 04, 2015  by Kathryn Mykleseth

Watch video  features Representative Cynthia Thielen:  Click to watch

Former NBA coach Don Nelson touts the benefits of building with the plant

KIHEI, Maui » Building one of the first homes in Hawaii made of hemp has left Hall of Fame NBA coach Don Nelson open to some friendly ribbing from his Maui neighbors.

“Most of them think they can smoke it,” Nelson said.

While industrial hemp used in the construction of homes comes from the same cannabis sativa plant species as marijuana, it contains only a small amount of tetrahydrocannabinol — the psychoactive chemical that creates the marijuana high.

MAKING HEMPCRETEHemp Create House June 4th article

Hempcrete is a construction material made out of the chips and fibers of hemp stalk mixed with water and lime.

1. Hemp stalk is put through a machine that breaks down the plant to chips, strands and fibers.

2. The material is then mixed with a lime binder and water to make the concrete-like material.

3. The pulpy mixture is shoveled into a movable form and compacted. The procedure is repeated until a wall is completed. At right is a sample of hempcrete.

“You’d have to smoke a telephone pole worth to get a little buzz on,” said Don’s wife, Joy Nelson.

The walls of the Nelsons’ 700-square-foot guest house are being filled with a material — made out of the chips and fibers of hemp stalk mixed with water and lime — called “hempcrete.”

Once the smaller house is finished later this month, the next project for the Nelsons is to construct the main house on their Sugar Beach oceanfront property — a 6,000 square-foot home — with hempcrete.

Don Nelson, 75, said he wanted to use hempcrete because of its low environmental impact, noting the sustainability of the hemp plant, which can be grown in Hawaii.

“I always felt that hemp was the building material of the future. It’s a wonderful plant. Some day there will be a lot of hemp homes,” Nelson said.

The building material is nontoxic and has other advantages for construction, including being resistant to insects, mildew and fire.

“We’re not killing any trees, which makes us feel good,” said Nelson, the winningest coach in NBA history. Nelson ended his NBA career in 2010 with the Golden State Warriors, the team heading into the NBA Finals Thursday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

George Rixey, architect and builder of the Nelson homes, said the cost for the 700-square-foot hemp house was approximately 15 percent more than a home made of traditional materials, primarily because the material had to be shipped from Canada and Europe.

Rixey said if hemp could be grown in Hawaii, it would cut the cost.

“It would have a completely 100 percent sustainable building product here in the islands,” Rixey said. “Someday if someone wanted to tear this house down, they could throw it in a dump and it would decompose and would be fine. They could also take it, throw it back into a bucket and remix it and put it back up again.”

The chips of the hempcrete were visible on the walls when Rixey and the Nelsons walked around the small house before the final touches. The home was built with conventional wood studs and the hempcrete was used as a filler for the walls. Stucco will be applied to the outside of the home and plaster on the inside of the home before it is complete.

The hempcrete adds insulation to the home, keeping it cool inside on warm days and warm on cooler days.

“Looking for sustainability is really difficult in the building industry,” Rixey said. “Along comes this hempcrete which is (in) every category you can imagine for sustainability in building.”

headshot dec 2011State Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kailua-Kaneohe) has been pushing for the use of industrial hemp in Hawaii for the past 19 years.

“My vision is on each island we grow the hemp and one use would be hempcrete. You have a ready material right there to build the walls of your home,” said Thielen.

Hawaii currently has one site on Oahu reserved for growing and testing hemp at the University of Hawaii’s Waimanalo Research Station.

Lawmakers introduced a measure, House Bill 508, last session that would allow the growing of industrial hemp under certain specified conditions. The bill proposed a grant program to help with registration of industrial hemp growers and seed testing. It would have provided a way to license farmers to grow hemp. Lawmakers deferred the bill in conference committee.

Thielen, 81, blamed the defeat of the bill on a handful of lawmakers who still confuse hemp with marijuana.

“Because there are a few people in the Legislature that are afraid of a crop that won’t get anyone high,” Thielen said, “we’re restricted to one single research plot.”

Denise Key, director of Industrial Hemp Hawaii and chairwoman of the hemp subcommittee of Hawai‘i Farmers Union United, said that more test sites are necessary to successfully research and build a hemp industry in Hawaii.

“We need to find the right seed for Hawaii,” Key said. “The farmers want to grow it. There was support all around.”

Joy Nelson said Key introduced her to using hemp as a construction material. After hearing about all of the benefits, Nelson said she decided to use hempcrete for the guest home on the family property.

Joy Nelson’s daughter, Lee McBride, said she was excited to be moving into the guest house, especially after learning how hempcrete insulates, making it easier to keep spaces cool.

“I have allergies, it is supposed to help with allergies and it is supposed to be more cost-efficient with heating and cooling,” McBride said.

McDermott’s Message: Addressing Campbell High’s Immediate Needs


Campbell High School principal Jon Henry Lee recently hosted an emergency meeting with state legislators to discuss an urgent situation.

Campbell High School originally was designed to serve 1,800 students, but the Ewa District’s population has grown more than 40 percent since 1990 and expands annually by 1.7 percent.

Currently, Campbell is the largest public high school, with student enrollment at about 3,000 students, and that number is expected to increase to 3,500 students within only three years.

Classes are packed with an average of 40-45 students, and the school is 30 classrooms short.

Cost estimates range from $30 million to $50 million to build an additional school building.

Earlier this year, the school’s vice principal, Shayne Greenland, indicated that increasing classroom capacity by building portable classrooms can help relieve congestion within a relatively reasonable amount of time and cost. H

However, additional funding is needed in order to meet immediate needs. Even though a permanent building is ideal, I concurred with his logic and introduced a bill that sought to appropriate $5 million to Campbell High School for portable classrooms.

Unfortunately, the bill never received a hearing.

Surprisingly, none of the current drafts of the state budget being considered by the Legislature shows any plans for new Campbell classroom space.

Although the state has plans for an additional high school in East Kapolei, no site has been selected.

While a site has been chosen for a Ho‘opili high school, actual construction probably won’t be completed for at least another 10 years.

To add insult to injury, Campbell still does not have air conditioning.

Based on previous years’ estimates, at least $13 million is needed to install air conditioning for the whole school.

Further, the school still awaits upgrades to its infrastructure to accommodate the air conditioning units— Gov. David Ige recently released $2.3 million to the state Department of Education for this purpose.

Campbell teacher Corey Rosenlee tirelessly advocates for air conditioning, and that funding is, in part, thanks to his efforts.

Much work remains to be done.

The state needs to rethink its priorities if it truly wants Campbell students to succeed.

Your Ewa Beach legislators all are united in working for Campbell in a bipartisan, shoulder-to-shoulder effort.

However, others who work in a comfortably air conditioned, uncrowded building are only paying lip service to students.

We can do better. These students, who are the future of our community, deserve better.

McDermott Head shot blue shirtContact state Rep. Bob McDermott (District 40 — Ewa, Ewa Beach and Iroquois Point) at 586- 9730 or