Department of Planning and Permitting Director Dean Uchida recused himself from working on the controversial short-term rental bill after guidance from the Honolulu Ethics Commission advised against his involvement, although they found it unlikely that he violated any of the city’s ethics laws.

DPP sent the Honolulu Star-Advertiser documents from the Honolulu Ethics Commission which explained that a complaint had been submitted, alleging that Uchida had a financial conflict of interest on Bill 41 due to his wife, Joy Uchida being an executive at Aqua Aston Hospitality, LLC.

The Honolulu Ethics Commission Assistant Executive Director Laurie Wong-Nowinski wrote that because Uchida would not be taking any official action on the bill and that his wife’s employment was not dependent the bill’s passage, that he would not be in violation of any city ethics laws. However, the commission encourages public officials to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. That is why Wong-Nowinski recommended that he recuse himself from working on Bill 41 and pass his responsibilities onto his staff.

Uchida filed a disclosure of conflict of interest form on Jan. 25, where he wrote, “I file this disclosure out of an abundance of caution.”

Bill 41 has been highly controversial as it would notably change the minimum stay at a short-term rental from 30 days to 90 days.

The Oahu Short-Term Rental Alliance wrote in a statement that they thought Uchida’s recusal was overdue.

“The entire process for Bill 41 has happened behind closed doors with the intent of supporting the hotel industry and the hotel industry alone,” they wrote.

“To restore the integrity of the legislative process and begin to rebuild trust from our community, we must start anew with transparency and true collaboration from all stakeholders. We ask City Council to institute a balanced short-term rental advisory board to consider all legislation carefully, with data and facts, with all voices heard and represented, and with a focus on solutions that will actually work for all.”

One of the provisions in a previous version of the bill would have required some short-term rentals to be managed by a hotel, but it was removed from the current version.

Bill 41 passed out of the Zoning and Planning Committee in late March, and awaits a third, and final reading in front of the full Council.

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