Hawaii State Officials Get Fined for Flight Upgrades

Dec 13, 2017

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The head of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and three former and current agency officials have been fined more than $12,000 for accepting flight upgrades.

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission yesterday found that CEO George Szigeti, COO Randy Baldemor; Jadie Goo, director of marketing for China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia; and David Uchiyama, former vice president of brand management, solicited or accepted flight upgrades from Japan Airlines, China Airlines, Air China and China Southern Airlines while on trips for state business in 2015 and 2016, without informing the state that they did so. All four were fined a total of over $12,000.

By law, state officials must travel in coach for work trips. If they accept upgrades, they must disclose them and treat them as gifts. The upgrades were each valued at more than $200.

“State officials can’t use their positions to get perks or benefits that aren’t available generally to others,” Daniel Gluck, executive director of the ethics commission, told Hawaii News Now. “The state can only pay for economy class, and that’s how they’re required to travel. If they have their own miles from their credit card, they can use that to upgrade themselves, but generally the state shouldn’t be paying for those kinds of upgrades.”

All the officials admitted accepting the upgrades. All but Szigeti said that they solicited or directed assistants to solicit upgrades. Szigeti said he accepted upgrades to business class from Japan Airlines on work trips to Japan, and in making its decision, the commission pointed out that Japan Airlines has $1 million in contracts with the tourism authority.

“We have put a policy in place strictly forbidding any courtesy travel upgrades when conducting business on behalf of the Hawaii Tourism Authority,” Szigeti and the agency said in a statement issued Monday. “We regret that this happened and appreciate the clarification from the ethics commission that courtesy travel upgrades are not available to any state employee.”

The commission levied the administrative fines to close out the investigation, and the fines aren’t considered legal admissions or findings of guilt. The fines are being paid as settlement agreements with the state instead of via formal processes.

Featured image courtesy of EQRoy / Shutterstock.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
0% on purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.