In Hawaii, toxic cesspools are spawning more than just bacteria; they are also breeding corruption.
After being found guilty on federal corruption charges stemming from a bribery scam involving the hazardous sewer pits, former state representative Ty Cullen was given a two-year jail sentence on Thursday.
Cullen previously acknowledged taking bribes in the form of money and gaming chips in return for supporting legislation that would lessen the tens of thousands of cesspools on the Hawaiian islands.
“This was a grievous breach of public trust on your part. It appears to have been motivated by greed, and it stretched out over a number of years. I am very concerned that this was not a momentary lapse of judgment,” Judge Susan Oki Mollway of the US District Court said as she imposed Cullen’s sentence.
Cullen acknowledged collecting $23,000 in bribes from Honolulu businessman Milton Choy, who intended to gain from legislation supporting publicly funded cesspool conversion projects, in his guilty agreement.
There are 83,000 toxic sewage pits called cesspools that collect waste from unconnected buildings in Hawaii. Legislative efforts have lately been made to hasten the conversion of some of these pits into septic tanks, which are more environmentally friendly.
In addition, Cullen claimed that he stole $22,000 in casino chips from Choy while at a symposium on wastewater in New Orleans.
For a portion of the time he accepted bribes, Cullen served as vice chairman of the state’s House Finance Committee.
“I want to say I’m sorry to my family who stayed by me, to my friends, to my constituents, my community and the people of Hawaii. I will continue to work to make my wrongs right. And ensure that this never happens again,” Cullen stated.
Cullen is not the first state Democrat to be sentenced to prison for accepting filthy kickbacks.
Democratic former Senate majority leader J. Kalani English received a 40-month prison term last year for accepting payments from Choy in order to influence legislation pertaining to cesspools.
The sentencing for Choy is scheduled for next month.
Some people have compared the noxious sewage pits that dot Hawaii with the shady politics that accompany efforts to clean them up.