Senator Subordinate

KITV had an good story that hasn’t gotten much attention about Mililani state Sen. Michelle Kidani’s off-session job as an aide to new Honolulu City Councilman Lee Donohue, who was appointed to fill the last six months of Charles Djou’s term.

A legislator can’t legally hold a second state job, but Kidani says she’s obtained a city ethics ruling that it’s OK to work for a county.

The position pays her $4,000 a month, slightly more than the $3,856 she makes as a senator. In the off-session last year, she returned to the job with the Honolulu neighborhood boards office that she held before winning the Senate seat from Ron Menor in 2008.

Kidani says there’s no conflict between working for a council member and serving in the Legislature, but that seems questionable.

The city has major dealings with the state, especially on funding, and interests that often differ. She could well find find herself voting as a senator on city issues she worked on as a council aide.

Besides the potential conflicts, it just seems unbecoming for a sitting senator to serve as a council member’s wonk.

The job can’t sit well with her colleagues in the Legislature, who have argued that they deserve higher pay because their jobs, while officially part-time, are effectively full-time.

If Kidani can work a demanding full-time job for another government agency during the eight months the Legislature is out of session, obviously the Senate position is very much part-time.

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32 Comments on “Senator Subordinate”

  1. hipoli Says:

    You had me for a while there until…


    Dave, take that back. Thats rude & insulting to all those staffers, aides, secretaries, etc., MOST of whom make peanuts, nevermind those who have college degrees and post-college degrees that parents paid good money for. Sheesh! Im disappointed that you scold us for calling people names and what have you just done? Im wagging my finger sternly at you!

    That said –

    I thought Senator Kidani’s job was with the neighborhood board commission? What was she making then? Seems like she may have just gotten a raise? But overall, if all the Senators and Reps now high-tail it over to their counties for a job, thats pretty damn incestuous to me. She’s opened/opening a huge can of worms. Do other States with part-time legislatures allow this practice?

  2. charles Says:

    One elected official working for another elected (sort of) official does not a trend make.

    I will acknowledge, though, it makes for a column.

    Also, if a school teacher or a police officer has another job, what does that mean?

  3. Earl of Sandwich Says:

    Working for the NB commission was one thing – shortage of applicants, not directly connected to State issues, she had experience in the job, but this job as an aide to a councilmember is far too close to her responsibilities as a senator. Even if she declared a conflict of interest on all city matters next session, and excuses herself from voting, that robs her constituents of representation.

    I agree with hipoli that “flunky” may not be a great word to use in this sense. However, in the sense of whether Kidani passes the test of common sense, she is definitely a “flunky.”

  4. hipoli Says:

    The fact is, other than pulling espresso shots at a local starbucks, a lot of the jobs legislators get to add to their part-time salary saddles them up with business, banks, and law firms that do business with the legislature. In that sense, why is Senator Kidani working for the county different than Senator Taniguchi working for a bank? I get that. All justification to pay these guys and gals (and their staffers) more so they arent put in this awful place of needing money for their families & having to basically pimp themselves out to a rich benefactor. But given the Hanabusa-slack, we know thats just not a popular sentiment, now is it? General public just doesnt get that problem & the dont care to.

    Still, this is a dumb move. It looks, smells, and tastes rotten. Thats like Senator Kim saying she has the qualifications (and she probably does) to go work in her pal, Mayor Mufi’s office too. Can you imagine our collective reaction then?

    This just does not pass the smell test of common sense.

  5. hipoli Says:

    i dont get your question, Charles. I know lots of teachers and more firemen than police officers with other jobs. But they arent at the table of making decisions about our State budget.

    I still dont like the use of the word ‘flunky’. I know many brilliant and wonderful staffers at both city and state who are dedicated and committed to both this State, their jobs, and the legislator/councilmember they work for, and really, most are very under-paid, especially in terms of experience and importance to the process. If I may for just this moment speak for them, I think Dave should change that headline. Again, he chides us for name-calling, but what is this hypocrisy?

  6. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    As someone who deals with staffers at all three levels of government on a daily basis, I agree with those of you who argue that the vast majority of them are bright & hard-working – and underpaid.

    Most of them could be doing the same work in the private sector making half or two-thirds more than they do now with a heckuva lot less stress. The principal reason they stay where they are is that, like their bosses, they have a strong commitment to public service.

    I do have my quarrels with how Lee Donahue got this position, but that’s another article altogether. What I don’t understand is why would a state senator from Mililani be working for a city councilmember representing East Honolulu.

    Council staffers don’t have to live in the district their bosses represent, but most do. Three of the people whom I know very well who put them names in consideration for Djou’s replacement would have done exceedingly well at this position. For sure, they certainly know how City Hall works and they’re grass roots community activists with years of experience working in the district.

    The state senator whom Kidani replaced had a very lucrative private law practice even during the legislative session. Ran into him at the Starbucks on Alakea a month or so ago and he definitely looks much better than he did during his last year or so in office. NOTE: He chaired the subject matter committee I dealt with most often so I saw him almost daily.

    There’s more to this story than the obvious one, but both Donahue and Kidani will be out the door come January 2. 2011. Is it worth pursuing and passing another law barring holding two jobs at two levels of government at the same time?

  7. David Shapiro Says:

    OK, I know when I’m whipped. I meant no name-calling and no offense to hardworking legislative staffers who don’t sit in the Senate on the side.

  8. Kailuaresident Says:

    Wow, did Dave use the word unbecoming? Now thats insulting. Dave ever heard the story of how Calvin Say, ehile still a young rep, would work as a waiter while out of session? Would you like to insult F and B workers now?
    As some have pointed out, this is no different then someone going to work for a private company that has business before the leg except a) Its more transparent and b) If it means that the Senator considers the well being of the Council constituents while voting as a Senator that cant really be a horrible thing. Plus Im pretty sure she would go with the well being of the residents of her Senatorial district.

  9. hipoli Says:

    Thank you, Dave.

  10. zzzzzz Says:

    The story I heard about Say was that he was a busboy, not even up to waiter in the food service hierarchy.

  11. hipoli Says:

    …though $48,000 a year ‘errand-runner’ isnt that much better.

  12. David Shapiro Says:

    Hipoli, in appreciation of your loyal readership, one more try.

  13. zzzzzing Says:

    One question: what’s a ‘wonk’?


  14. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    According to Merriam-Webster, a wonk is a person preoccupied with arcane details or procedures in a specialized field; broadly : nerd

    What I didn’t know is that wonk dates back to 1954. I don’t recall hearing it prior to the late 1980s.

  15. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Hmmm – why did the color of my post change? Any explanations from one of blogwonks?

  16. jayz43 Says:

    From Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary:

    flunky: one performing menial or miscellaneous duties

    subordinate: placed in or occupying a lower class or position: inferior

    It sounds like “subordinate” is a demotion from the rank of “flunky”.

  17. hipoli Says:

    I appreciate your responsiveness, Dave, as a sentiment of your appreciation of me!

  18. David Shapiro Says:

    Kailuaresident, don’t try play the busboy card on me. I worked as a busboy to supplement my first $45/wk newspaper job. I only hope Calvin’s waitpersons were more generous in sharing tips than mine were.

  19. Janie Gunn Says:

    here’s a link to the National Conference on State Legislature’s study on whether or not state legislators can hold other state/county positions within their respective state:

    FYI Dave, if you want to fully remove “flunky” from this story, you may want to also change the naming of this URL. 🙂

  20. David Shapiro Says:

    Janie, thanks much for the link. Very interesting comparisons. To change the URL, I’d have to redo the post and obliterate this one and all the comments attached to it. I don’t think the offense was egregious enough to warrant nuclear annihilation.

    Krazee-Eyez Killah, very entertaining, but unfortunately, outside the line on personal attacks on other posters.

  21. Doug Says:

    Actually you could change the url, too, without nuking the post, if your webhost allows you full control. (If you’re blog is hosted at WordPress, then perhaps not)

    Ask a wonk for help. Heh.

  22. Michael Says:

    I do not believe that anyone Educated should be paid more because they went and got a Higher Education than the average person who did not.

    Part of The blame should be on the shoulders of the Ethics. Neither did they show common sense for allowing but allowing it to further become a topic of conflict of interest.

    Ah, the smell of 2 cents perfume. I don’t find the word “flunky” offensive. What’s wrong with having a little pun. Minial in harm and miscellaneous in meaning.

  23. charles Says:

    @hipoli, maybe you didn’t get my point because I didn’t write it well. Not the first time I’ve been guilty of this, I’m afraid.

    Here’s my point. David has an obsession about the pay raises for legislators. Some supporters for the pay raise point out that it’s really a full-time job.

    Hence, David’s jab at Kidani. After all, if it’s a full-time job, then why does Kidani (or anyone else for that matter) have to work another job or more to the point, how does she have the time to work another job?

    My point is that there are tons of people out there who work full-time jobs but work other jobs as well. It’s not whether they are in a decisionmaking position but that I don’t find it problematic that legislators find other jobs to support their families.

    Now I do get your point that Kidani’s choice of jobs may be questionable. However, I would also point out that it’s a matter of degree (as most things in life).

    For example, those legislators who are attorneys or realtors. Do they have conflicts when dealing with legislation? Or those who work for unions, banks, or are self-employed?

    Even those that are retired are conflicted. And I’m not even getting into what their spouses, children, parents, etc. do for a living that are potential conflicts.

  24. hipoli Says:

    Charles: if Senator Kim got a job with Mayor Mufi, what would be our collective response? What about Rep Tokioka getting a job in Kauai’s council, his previous employment? Senator English get a job in Maui Council? EtcEtc. I’m sure there are other former councilmembers from all our counties, but you get my point here?

    I’m saying Kidani’s new employment opens a can of worms that I think we all would rather not see.

  25. charles Says:

    hipoli, I do get your point; hence, my previous post stating, “Now I do get your point that Kidani’s choice of jobs may be questionable.” (Minor quibble: Kidani is not a former councilmember unlike Kim, Tokioka, English, etc.)

    Frankly, I am surprised that this was okayed by the Ethics Commission. My understanding was that one couldn’t get two government paychecks. Then again, Senator Green gets two paychecks from state entities, I think.

  26. ct Says:

    One of the major reasons the Legislature justified a pay raise was that it was a full time job. So their pay was raised 36% and also remember they will be getting lifetime retirement benefits as well based on their salary. The point is, most Legislators have full time jobs and careers so isn’t this hypocritical to say the least and may I say arrogant in the worse case. Sure this may not be illegal but it sure points sheds light on our so called ethical politicians. This is classic, politicians hiring other politicians.

  27. hipoli Says:

    FYI – Green no longer works for HHSC.

  28. Kailuaresident Says:

    Sorry Dave, but your tone smacks of elitism. I dont think scrubbing toilets is ‘beneath’ an elected official. Maybe Im less ‘status conscious’ then you are….
    My point was do you think being a busboy was ‘beneath’ Rep. Say? I heard he got some of his best grassroots info in that job…

  29. Andy Parx Says:

    Hipoli’s thought made me wonder how we’d respond if a legislator got a job for the county lobbying the legilature.

  30. David Shapiro Says:

    KR, I think it’s beneath an elected official to be a paid subordinate of another elected official, compromising independence and creating conflicts. I’m not going to play your toilet scrubbing game.

  31. Michael Says:

    CT says it quite clearly.

    Calvin Say said he could not make ends meet on his PART TIME JOB as legislature. Assuming he had a FULL TIME JOB on the side. He wanted 2 FULL TIME JOBS with all the trimmings.

    Working 2 jobs, one would be lucky to work at Starbucks. Free Coffee, and all the caffeine to stay up and work 2 jobs. If I were to work a second job it would be at a Fast Food place. Free meal.

    One should follow the minial job of being a Junior Sumotori or wrestler. His job of cooking, cleaning. washing a seniors back and their rear ends. One is proud to be in training for Sumotori.
    Their dignity would disgust many who are not familiar with Sumo, but it is an honor to those Japanese and foreigners who want to be Sumotori. From doing minial jobs, they learn humility and when they become senior wrestler, they too have a junior wrestler do their minial chores.

    I have always said to my manager and that got me in trouble. Enjoy your power at work, outside this building who cares who you are and what you do. You are just a nobody unless someone knows who you are. Inside you are my manager, outside you are just a nobody who is not my boss. I got minial jobs for being insubordinate but I enjoyed every moment of it. Managers come and gone.

    It seems differently for Politicians who carry the Title 24/7 365 days a year. One can’t bad mouth them.
    One can’t say “Bite me”.

    There are those who only want to understand what they want to understand. Ain’t no Burger King where you have it Your Way.

  32. hipoli Says:

    Lets take a small Volcanic Ash blog poll.

    Yay = Kidani has a right to employment & should stay in her new job – and we all need to zip it.

    Nay = Kidani may or may not have the right, she should quit – and we know this just does not pass the smell test.


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