Tuesday, January 8, 2002

City & County of Honolulu

Harris complaint
may go to prosecutor

The spending panel is investigating
the 2000 mayoral campaign

By Rick Daysog

The state Campaign Spending Commission will consider referring its investigation of Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris' political campaign to city prosecutors.

The five-member commission, which has been looking into contributions to Harris' successful 2000 mayoral campaign, has placed a complaint against Harris's 2000 mayoral campaign on the agenda for its next meeting on Jan. 15.

People familiar with the case said the commission will vote on referring the complaint to city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle's office for criminal prosecution.

Bob Watada, the commission's executive director, declined comment, saying he won't speak about the case until the meeting.

A spokesman for Carlisle also had no comment, saying he was unaware the commission is considering a criminal referral.

Ruth Ann Becker, a spokeswoman for the Harris campaign, had no response, saying she's not aware of the allegations in the complaint.

Harris -- who defeated former City Councilman Mufi Hannemann in the 2000 mayoral election -- plans to run for governor this year as a Democrat.

The agenda for the Jan. 15 meeting also indicated that the commission has reached agreements with two local companies -- Gentry Cos. and Geolabs Inc. -- for exceeding the $4,000 legal limit for campaign contributions to Harris' 2000 re-election effort.

During the past election cycle, people linked to Geolabs gave the Harris campaign about $60,000.

The commission began taking a close look into contributions to the Harris campaign earlier this year after the Star-Bulletin reported that the mayor's campaign raised nearly $750,000 -- or about a quarter of his $3 million war chest for the 2000 re-election -- from people and companies linked to dozens of city contractors.

Watada earlier said that the commission is now investigating 50 to 60 companies that gave political donations to Harris' mayoral campaign.

In November, the commission fined five donors -- local restaurant operator Alan Ho, AES Design Group, Hawaii Design Associates, Community Planning Inc. and John Farias Jr. --- for exceeding the $4,000 limit.

Last month, the commission fined two additional firms -- City Bank and the engineering firm of Belt Collins -- for surpassing the $4,000 limit.

Chris Parsons, a Harris campaign attorney, has criticized Watada for singling out the Harris campaign. Last month, he filed a formal complaint with the state Ethics Commission, alleging that Watada improperly disclosed information about his pending investigation and commented on some of his findings.

In doing so, Watada has given Harris' opponents an "unwarranted advantage, Parsons said.

Watada said the Harris campaign is attempting to harass the commission and added that the commission is investigating the campaigns of several political candidates.

City & County of Honolulu

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