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Editorials
Saturday, March 17, 2001

Deal shouldn’t
prevent prosecution
of Mansho

The state Campaign Spending Commission has reprimanded City Councilwoman Rene Mansho for financial misdeeds by levying a $40,000 fine that she will pay out of campaign funds.

Mansho's handling of campaign funds and public tax dollars went far beyond mere sloppy bookkeeping, however, and merits more than a slap on the wrist.

Any settlement should not preclude the Attorney General's Office or the U.S. Justice Department from initiating prosecution if they have concluded there was probable cause of illegality. The proposed agreement includes a provision that the commission not refer the case to state attorneys for criminal prosecution. But the commission is not a branch of the justice system and is in no position to determine whether crimes will be prosecuted. That should be decided by law-enforcement authorities.

Mansho has agreed to pay the fine, admitting that she used her city staff to conduct campaign work during city business hours on city property from 1989 to 2000. The commission figures the value of that staff work at $93,362 that went unreported as "in kind" contributions.

Her most blatant money-shuffling involved payment for Council-related travel and lodging. According to Robert Watada, the commission's executive director, the Council authorized Mansho's travel to the neighbor islands and the mainland. She used $9,841 in campaign funds to pay for the trips, was reimbursed $10,661 by the city but paid only $2,820 of the reimbursement money back into her campaign fund, apparently pocketing more than $7,000.

Watada said Mansho's financial indiscretions included "a wide range of personal expenses, including travel, meals, UH season football tickets, Christmas parties, Council coffee clubs, seminars, library fines and other expenses unrelated to her campaign for office."

A benign expenditure -- but a violation nevertheless -- involved directing her staff to organize the Aloha Scholarship Golf Tournament for the Hawaii Performing Arts in 1999, raising $21,750, including $6,500 in scholarships.

Mansho's settlement with the spending commission obligates her to pay $30,000 in fines from her campaign fund -- essentially all that remains of it -- and $10,000 of her personal money.

The transfer of funds from her campaign chest to city coffers is difficult to regard as a fine; rather, it will put some of the money back where it belongs. The personal fine is hardly an adequate penalty for numerous violations over a lengthy period.






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Don Kendall, President

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