- Associated Press - Thursday, April 9, 2015

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) - The Hawaii County Board of Ethics cleared the Coalition for Tobacco-Free Hawaii of wrongdoing after the group’s executive director apologized for neglecting to register its lobbyists with the county.

Jessica Yamauchi told the board Wednesday that the Honolulu-based coalition is registered at the state level, West Hawaii Today, a Kailua-Kona newspaper, (http://is.gd/4mizOM) reported. Yamauchi said the group’s lobbyists didn’t think they would reach the necessary threshold to register with the county until their efforts were intensified after county electronic cigarette legislation turned out to be hotly disputed.

“We apologize for not registering as lobbyists. That was an oversight on our part,” she said.

Three coalition members ended up registering as lobbyists with the county in December. Yamauchi said the issue was brought to the coalition’s attention last year.

Coalition lobbyists appeared numerous times to testify in favor of two county bills regulating tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.

“You’re agreeing that you should register as lobbyists based on the fact that you had paid employees who were attempting to influence members of the County Council?” ethics board member Douglass Adams asked.

The ethics board agreed the coalition did not act willfully when it failed to register as lobbyists, and it is thus not subject to penalties.

Mariner Revell, who owns Irie Hawaii Smoke Shops, filed an original complaint against Hawaii Council chairman Dru Kanuha, saying Kanuha violated County ethics code by conferring with unregistered lobbyists on the two bills, which he sponsored and for which the coalition advocated. Revell said Kanuha wouldn’t meet with him, however.

Kanuha was previously cleared by the board.

That case led to the ethics board opening a separate case against the coalition. Revell said he wasn’t surprised by the outcome in the coalition case.

“This is just a prime example why people don’t vote, because nothing ever happens,” he said.

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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