Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Mirikitani digs in

The councilman refuses to
resign despite growing pressure
following a guilty verdict

He does agree, however, to give up his
right to vote on city council committees

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

City Councilman Andy Mirikitani is refusing to resign from his 5th District seat despite pressure after he was found guilty last week of receiving kickbacks from two employees in exchange for bonuses.

That decision means he can continue to sit at monthly Council meetings, make votes affecting his district and draw his $42,500-a-year salary until his sentencing, scheduled for Dec. 4.

"At this time it is not my intention to resign from my position on the City Council," Mirikitani said in a release issued through Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura. "As I have over the past 12 years, I will continue to serve my constituents, handle all constituent concerns and voice constituents' concerns at Council and committee meetings."

While choosing to remain on the Council, however, Mirikitani said he will step down as chairman of the Cultural Affairs Committee and surrender his right to vote on three remaining committees on which he now sits.

The news release did not state if Mirikitani would appear at tomorrow's Council meeting.

The statement also said Mirikitani expects to appeal at least "certain issues" connected to the verdict that found him guilty of one count each of bribery, theft, extortion and wire fraud and two counts of witness tampering.

Yoshimura, during an afternoon news conference, said he advised Mirikitani to resign during a five-minute conversation with him earlier in the day.

"Personally, I think it's a mistake," Yoshimura said, adding that he is not surprised by Mirikitani's decision. "I think Andy should step down for the good of his constituents, for the good of the Council and for Andy's own good."

Yoshimura said he thinks Mirikitani is continuing because he has bills to pay before the December sentencing date.

"I think it has a lot to do with Andy's personal situation," Yoshimura said. "He's just gone through a trial that has been very costly to him, personally, and I think he is in need of a paycheck."

Further, Yoshimura said, "from what I understand, Andy still believes he's innocent, and he has not yet accepted the jury's verdict."

Yoshimura said he is worried how Mirikitani's presence will affect the Council. "I think it will be difficult to conduct business with Andy present. If he continues to be absent from the Council, I think that we'll be able to do our work and do it in an efficient manner. I think if Andy becomes involved in Council decision-making, that has the potential to make it disruptive."

The Council will reorganize committee assignments through a resolution, possibly as early as tomorrow, to reflect Mirikitani's departure.

Yoshimura last week noted that removing Mirikitani from committees was something Council members were mulling since they are legally not allowed to remove him from the Council.

Yoshimura said Council rules currently do not allow for censure but that he and his colleagues may consider adding such a provision.

John Edmunds, Mirikitani's attorney, said he is considering several avenues of appeal. First, he said, he expects to argue that there was no "nexus" or connection between the city's receipt of federal funds and Mirikitani's supposed crime and therefore no reason for federal investigators, federal attorneys or a federal court to be involved in at least some of the counts.

Edmunds also is looking at challenging Judge Helen Gillmor's ruling barring him from asking certain questions during his cross-examination of Cindy McMillan, a key witness in the case. Edmunds said he believes that was an improper restriction. He said he also believes Gillmor erred in not allowing him to impeach the testimony of Garrett Serikawa, another prosecution witness.

An appeal would need to be filed within 10 days of sentencing, Edmunds said.

Gov. Ben Cayetano yesterday became the latest political leader to call on Mirikitani to resign.

"That is what I would do if I were in his position," Cayetano said. "In this particular case, it looked like the facts were quite strong."

Four of Mirikitani's eight Council colleagues -- Duke Bainum, John DeSoto, Steve Holmes and now Yoshimura -- have also called for his resignation, while four others have declined to do so.

According to prosecutors, Mirikitani gave bonuses totaling $26,533.45 to aides McMillan and Jonn Serikawa in exchange for $6,884 in kickbacks. Mirikitani said the charges were the result of disgruntled ex-employees.

Also yesterday, the city announced that it has chosen not to renew the $45,000-a-year contract of Sharron Bynum, Mirikitani's girlfriend and co-defendant.

Bynum, 52, was found guilty last week of theft and extortion but acquitted of bribery. She has been a contract hire since last year with the city Department of Facility Maintenance as a property manager. Her contract expired on June 30.

"In light of the recent jury verdict, the city will not be renewing her contract," Corporation Counsel David Arakawa said. "The department will begin advertising for someone to fill that position."

Star-Bulletin reporter Richard Borreca contributed to this report.

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