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Saturday, July 8, 2000

Villages bidding
skirted procedure

Large city purchases must
go through the Finance Dept.,
which was kept in the dark

By Debra Barayuga


The Ewa Villages relocation project didn't follow city procedures that require oversight by the Finance Department, according to a police investigator.

Ewa Villages Trial When the city buys services or products exceeding a certain amount, the city purchasing section gets involved, said Honolulu Police Capt. Dan Hanagami, who was asked to look into allegations of theft from the city's relocation funds.

The Property Management Division -- headed by branch chief Michael Kahapea and assisted by fair-housing officer Norman Tam -- was soliciting bids, approving the bid proposals and making payments to moving companies that submitted the lowest bids -- which is what the tenants at Ewa Villages were supposed to be doing, Hanagami said.

Had the Finance Department known what they were doing with the bids, it would have put a stop to it and taken over the bidding process, he said.

Hanagami is the state's final witness in the trial of Kahapea, accused of stealing $5.8 million from the city's Ewa Villages relocation fund.

Commercial tenants in Ewa Villages were entitled to move themselves and did not have to go through the bidding process, Hanagami said during questioning by Todd Eddins, attorney for Stephen Swift, also standing trial with Kahapea.

The tenants simply had to find three bidders, select the lowest and then move themselves, but none of the tenants at Ewa Villages selected the movers, Hanagami said.

Swift, owner of a recycling company that was asked to move from Ewa Villages, is charged with second-degree theft for allegedly billing the city for $19,495 worth of work done at his new site.

Swift has contended he had to install certain amenities to the site he moved to at Waipahu Sugar Mill to make it comparable to his Ewa Villages location, and worked them into the $19,495 check. Eddins argued that Swift had trusted Kahapea and relied on his instructions to submit certain documents.

In other related matters, Judge Reynaldo Graulty yesterday denied a motion for a judgment of acquittal to both Kahapea and Swift, saying a "reasonable mind" could fairly conclude that the defendants are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Graulty also denied a motion for a mistrial by Kahapea, who sought a ruling on whether a law clerk working for the city's Corporation Counsel had circumvented rules barring potential witnesses from the courtroom.

Kahapea's attorney is expected to argue on Monday why Mayor Jeremy Harris and other top city officials should testify when the defense begins its case next week.

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