California lawmakers criticized for travelling to Maui for in-person conference

When some California legislators get home from a conference, they could face some criticism for travelling and gathering at a vacation hotspot during a pandemic. Either we all try to live under the same rational rules or face COVID chaos.      

There are reports that as many as six California legislators, along with lawmakers from some other states as well as a large group of lobbyists, flew off to Maui, Hawaii.  According to the San Francisco Chronicle and LA Times, the trip was for an annual conference and fundraiser for the non-profit Independent Voter Project.

This is being done at a time when everyone else is directed to hunker down and avoid mixing; even with extended families.

Last week the governor traveled to Wine Country for a group birthday party against his own recommendations. He later apologized.

Professor John Pelissero is an ethicist at Santa Clara University's Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

"A gathering of legislators and lobbyists from various states just doesn't seem to fit the category of essential travel during a pandemic," said Professor Pelissero.

Cal Poly Professor Emeritus Steven Mintz teaches ethics and raises common questions in these circumstances. "Conferences are being held on Zoom. School is being held by Zoom. So, why do they have to go to Hawaii to have a conference? It wasn't an ethical response; an ethical thing to do," said Professor Mintz.

The assembly speaker's press secretary told KTVU they have no information which legislators might have gone to the conference.  

The Independent Voter Project told reporters it would not release the legislators' names. One of the group's key missions stresses accountability and election reform.

"It's likely to impact the trust that the voters placed in elected legislators at the time of their election," said Pelissero.

It's a case of  'do as I say, not as I do.'

"It's just ill thought out and I don't think there's any excuse that they have cabin fever or that they're tired of it all. We all are. So, it's very hypocritical to expect the public to do these sorts of things," said Mintz.

"Optics are a good statement about ethics. You want to lead with example," said Pelissero.

An example that is not hitting home with constituents.

"They live in a different world than we do. They like to pass on the rules but not live by the rules," said Judy Hughes who we met in Dublin. Norman Sinai said his family has been going to Hawaii for the last two weeks in December for the last 17 years.

"This is the first year we're pretty much decided we're gonna postpone it and not go just because of the safety aspect," Sinai said.

KTVU called the Independent Voter Project, but has not yet heard back.