Public trust concerns amid bribery allegations against former Hawaii lawmakers

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The corruption allegations against former Senate Majority Leader Kalani English and now former Rep. Ty Cullen could be far worse than the actual fraud charges the two face, according to a legal expert.

United States Attorney Clare Connors announced that English and Cullen were charged with one count of honest services wire fraud. Federal prosecutors alleged that English and Cullen took thousands of dollars in bribes to sway their votes in the legislature.

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“That’s the last thing the public wants to hear is money influencing votes,” former Hawaii attorney general Doug Chin said. “You have this accusation of wire fraud, but behind it all are very serious and material allegations that constitute a serious breach of trust.”

Lobbying is legal in Hawaii, but legal analyst Dr. John Hart said the alleged acceptance of thousands of dollars crossed ethical and legal boundaries.

Hart said: “It goes beyond the fact that it’s ‘quid pro quo’ to be a lawyer. It simply means that there was an explicit agreement to exchange goods for services, in this case, money for political actions.

Hawaii Senate Public Information Officer Jacob Aki said in a statement, “We were not aware until the news broke earlier today, and we have no No comments for the moment.”

Meanwhile, House Speaker Scott Saiki confirmed Rep. Ty Cullen has resigned from office.

“The allegations against former Senator Kalani English and Representative Ty Cullen are very serious and these actions violate public trust,” Saiki said. “The Hawaii Democratic Party will now need to begin the process of nominating a replacement for Representative Cullen.”

Hawaii Kai Rep. Gene Ward called for the involvement of the state auditor if questions about campaign finances arise.

Ward said, “This is the biggest bombshell to hit the state legislature in decades. I commend the US Attorney’s office on what appears to be a very open and closed case. »

Chin said the allegations are more the reason to engage in the political process and hold elected officials accountable.

“I think it’s important to bring cases like these to light, really as a wake-up call that law enforcement is going to hold everyone accountable according to the law,” Chin said. . “And being able to enforce those laws is important to being able to gain public trust.”

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Neither English nor Cullen are in custody, with their first court appearance scheduled in the coming days.

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