The State Department of Health announced its intention last month to award a $25,040 no-bid contract to the Healthy Hawaii Coalition, a nonprofit group founded and controlled by Senator Mike Gabbard and his daughter, Honolulu City Councilmember Tulsi Gabbard.
The two-year contract from the Clean Water Branch, Environmental Management Division, is “to develop and
present an educational program for elementary school children to encourage behavior changes that will result in healthier watersheds.” It is funded by an EPA Clean Water Act grant.
The contract was disclosed in a February 13, 2012 notice posted in a section of the State Ethics Commission’s web site, required whenever a state agency wants to award a contract valued at more than $10,000 to a state officer or employee without competitive bidding.
Senator Gabbard, who is president of Healthy Hawaii Coalition, also chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment, which appears to have jurisdiction over at least some DOH programs and interests.
Does the no-bid contract create a conflict of interest for Senator Gabbard? There is no indication that it raised red flags at the State Ethics Commission.
HHC previously developed a curriculum dealing with watershed issues with several grants beginning in 2002, according to information posted on its web site.
Neither Gabbard is paid by the coalition, according to their personal financial disclosures, but the contract notice says both have an “active role in the organization’s education and outreach efforts.”
Those seeking additional information about the nonprofit program are directed to an email address at MikeGabbard.com, which mixes personal and legislative information with at least one campaign video, and also solicits campaign contributions. The overlapping of campaign efforts and nonprofit activities has previously drawn criticism.
Healthy Hawaii Coalition was registered to do business in Hawaii in 2001, but is not registered to solicit funds from the public, according to a search of the charitable organization database maintained by the Attorney General’s office.
The group is also absent from the list of Health Department contractors in the State Procurement Office database.