Retired Hawaii official fined $5K for accepting free meals

HONOLULU (AP) — A former top examiner for the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs has been fined $5,000 for accepting free meals from a vendor he oversaw.

The state Ethics Commission announced the fine levied against Tian Xiao, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

Xiao was the chief examiner of the Financial Surveillance and Examination Branch for the commerce department's Insurance Division before retiring in late 2019.

Xiao accepted about $654 worth of meals, including dinner for himself and his wife at the upscale Nobu Honolulu restaurant that cost $500 for a party of three, the ethics commission said.

Xiao allegedly violated the state’s Gifts Law and Gifts Reporting Law by accepting four meals from vendor Risk & Regulatory Consulting, LLC. in August and October 2018 and July and September 2019, the commission said.

He failed to file gift disclosure statements for any of the meals, the commission said.

Xiao said he was responsible for negotiating a contract rate for Risk & Regulatory Consulting. He monitored the company's work conducting financial examinations of regulated insurance companies on behalf of the state insurance division, the commission said.

Xiao considered the meals with unidentified company representatives to be social dinners and said he took them hiking and paid for meals, baked goods, coffee and other snacks on occasion, the commission said. Xiao could not immediately be reached for comment, the Star-Advertiser reported.

Risk & Regulatory Consulting representatives told ethics commission staff they did not recall Xiao paying for any meals.

Xiao told investigators he gave a company representative $100 in cash after the Nobu Honolulu dinner, but the official said Xiao did not pay for any portion of the August 2018 meal.

The commission made no findings of fact or conclusions about whether Xiao violated the state ethics code.