Saturday, July 31, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

City, mayor have
Friends in common

Donor lists for Friends of
Honolulu and Friends of Harris
share many names

Some of the largest contributors

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


The list of donors to the Friends of the City and County of Honolulu reads like a list of donors to the Friends of Jeremy Harris.

On both lists are high-powered contractors, developers, marketing corporations, financial institutions and appointed members of Harris' Cabinet. Many of the names are the same.

City Councilman Mufi Hannemann says that's reason for the Friends of the City and County of Honolulu to report its activities to the Council, like all others who make contributions to the city.

To not do so, he said, is tantamount to the mayor having "a stealth slush fund" from which he draws money to pay for expenses not approved by the Council. Larry Meacham, executive director for Common Cause Hawaii, has raised similar concerns.

‘We’re showcasing
Honolulu, a world-class
city with world-
class people.’

Peter Char



Friends of the City and County of Honolulu, registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, has raised nearly $395,000 since its inception in 1995. The money has gone toward city-related events such as Honolulu City Lights and receptions for visiting dignitaries.

"I'm proud of that," said Peter Char, the Honolulu attorney who serves as Friends of the City and County of Honolulu president and assistant treasurer to Friends of Jeremy Harris. "We worked very hard."

The organization currently has a balance of about $17,000, Char said.

The group was first formed to raise funds for a reception for participants of a World War II commemoration, Char said. About $7,000 remained after the event, and the group continued to help other projects.

Much of the revenues came from the mayor's inaugural ball in January 1997, in which the Friends of the City made $110,000.

Char said the ball was considered a fund-raiser. The Harris campaign war chest was in debt about $100,000, and the mayor's supporters could have opted to use proceeds from the inaugural to pay that off.

Instead, Char said, "It occurred to me that we could use the money for charitable purposes."

The organization also made more money after receptions tied to the welcoming of the USS Missouri and a visit from the mayor of Zhongshan, China. Both occurred last year.

Char released the identities of contributors, amounts contributed and the expenditures of the Friends of the City and County of Honolulu yesterday at the urging of Harris.

Char initially declined to release the information, citing confidentiality concerns.

Hannemann said he has no qualms with the organization itself.

But the City Charter calls for all donations made to the city to be approved by the Council, Hannemann said, and the Friends' contributions should be treated no differently.

He noted that many of the names of individuals and organizations that contributed to the group are the same as those who have contributed to Harris' campaign committee.

"There is a perception, now that you have disclosed this list, that people who have contributed to his campaign fund and this organization are given special treatment," Hannemann said.

"Is this in fact happening?"

Char countered that several Council members, including Hannemann, have held fund-raisers for charity. Many of those who contribute to those efforts, he said, also donate to the Council members' campaigns.

Hannemann said the difference is that the Friends' money goes to the city, and therefore needs to comply with the Charter.

Char said the events aided by the Friends help the city look good, and none have political overtones.

"We're showcasing Honolulu, which I consider to be a world-class city with world-class people," he said.

He noted that the organization has even rejected requests from the administration, including one for funds to help pay for a retreat of Harris Cabinet members.

Hannemann is also critical of the organization's leadership structure, which lists city Deputy Managing Director Malcolm Tom, until recently the city's budget director, as a director. Another director is is Lynette Chee, deputy director of enterprise services.

People who may be granting city approvals or selecting contractors should not be soliciting funds for the Friends, Hannemann said.

Contractors, unions
among contributors to
Friends of Honolulu

Star-Bulletin staff


The biggest contributor to the Friends of the City and County of Honolulu to date has been Mitsunaga and Associates, headed by contractor Dennis Mitsunaga.

Mitsunaga and Associates contributed $10,000 as a corporate sponsor for the Mayors' Asia-Pacific Environmental Summit held in January.

During the 1996 mayoral campaign, supporters of Mayor Jeremy Harris accused Arnold Morgado's campaign committee of violating the city campaign ethics law by accepting contributions from Mitsunaga, who had received nonbid city contracts.

Also on the list was GMP Associates, which contributed $5,000 to the inaugural ball. The campaign of former Mayor Frank Fasi was forced to give back $2,000 to the architectural company because it was more than allowed.

Other large contributions made to the Friends:

Bullet The Estate of James Campbell donated $6,500 at the mayor's 1997 inaugural ball and also contributed $5,000 for the 50th-anniversary celebration of the end of World War II in 1995.

Bullet Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii contributed $5,000 each to the inaugural gala. Each had also donated $2,500 to the World War II event, as did Hawaii National Bank.

Bullet The international transportation engineering firm of Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade and Douglas, which has the contract for the city's transit master plan, donated $6,500 to the inaugural ball.

Bullet Developers Gentry Homes, Albert C. Kobayashi and Sheldon Zane all contributed $5,000 to the inaugural ball, as did the law firm of McCorriston Miho Miller Mukai, which has been hired to do litigation for the city.

Bullet Outrigger Hotels and Resorts donated $5,000 to the inaugural ball, while executive Jean Rolles chipped in $3,000.

The list is also heavy with donors among the ranks of contractors, labor unions, architectural and law firms, engineering companies and other business interests.

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