Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Legislature 2002

Bill would ban
donors from
nonbid contracts

A Council measure would affect
political backers of the mayor

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Any architects, engineers, law firms or others who contribute to mayoral candidates would be barred from receiving nonbid contracts from the city, under a bill introduced by City Councilman John Henry Felix.

The campaign reform bill is similar to one passed by the Legislature last night.

But the Council bill may succeed where the legislative bill could fail, Felix said. The Council proposal avoids constitutional pitfalls that may be doom the legislative bill because the Council bill does not include provisions barring a person or company from giving money to a candidate, Felix said.

Under the Felix bill, no nonbid contract would be awarded to any person or company who made a contribution to an incumbent mayor or the mayor's campaign committee in the two preceding years.

Unlike construction contracts, professional service or consultant contracts are not awarded through a competitive bid process. The nonbid process, Felix said, encourages favoritism.

He noted that the contracts are often lucrative and lead to cost overruns.

For instance, the administration of Mayor Jeremy Harris approved amendments that more than quadrupled the cost of a planning and design contract for improvements at the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Group 70 International was authorized to receive $2.05 million, upped from the originally contracted $450,000.

The administration has also received criticism for the high cost of consultant contracts issued for the design of vision team projects.

A Star-Bulletin investigation last year found that Harris' campaign committee raised nearly $750,000 in political contributions from companies that received business from the city or people affiliated with them. Many of those companies received nonbid contracts.

Felix said because only the administration of the mayor can issue a nonbid contract, the bill applies only to the mayor's campaign receipts.

Robert Watada, executive director of the state Campaign Spending Commission, said the Felix bill reinforces what was passed by the Legislature.

The legislative bill, however, applies not just to the mayor but all elected state and city officials.

It also states that a company or entity cannot contribute not just in the two preceding years, but during the time of the contract and two years after the contract is over. It also applies to both bid and nonbid contracts.

Additionally, the legislative bill bars any person or company who enters into a contract with the state or any of the counties from donating to a political campaign 12 months before and after a contract.

Felix noted that the last provision -- barring contributions to campaigns -- was approved by the Council several years ago only to be struck down by the courts.

"We were very careful not to preclude contributors from giving," Felix said. "They can still give, they just cannot be awarded nonbid contracts."

Dan Chun, government affairs chairman for the state arm of the American Institute of Architects, said contractors often have reasons to contribute to candidates that have nothing to do with contracts they receive.

If lawmakers want to curb political ties to contracts, they should focus on reforming procurement law, Chun said.

Legislature Directory

Legislature Bills & Hawaii Revised Statutes

Testimony by email:
Include in the email the committee name; bill number;
date, time and place of the hearing; and number of copies
(as listed on the hearing notice.) For more information,
or call 587-0478.

E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin