[ OUR OPINION ]
ELECTED officials have been put on notice once again that corrupt behavior will earn them time behind bars. Only after a year in prison, imposed by Circuit Judge Daniel Kochi, may Rene Mansho appreciate the seriousness of betraying the trust of her constituents while representing them on the City Council. Other politicians should take note.
Mansho should use
time in prison to reflect
A state judge has sentenced former City Councilwoman Rene Mansho to a year in prison and fined her $25,000 for corruption.
Even after reaching a plea agreement with city prosecutors, the smiling former schoolteacher seemed oblivious to her misconduct. "I was charged with the use of my city staff for non-city business during city time," she acknowledged in April. "As the elected Council member of the office, I am taking the responsibility." In other words, Mansho seemed to be saying, there were technical violations of the law for which she was legally -- but not necessarily morally -- culpable. At her sentencing yesterday, she finally apologized.
Some of Mansho's misbehavior cited by Deputy Prosecutor Randal Lee is typical of politicians. For example, she was miffed when a corporation that had received city permits from the Council returned 12 tickets to her January 1997 fund-raiser, advising her staff to "take (them) off our list" of supporters because it was "so selfish." She also was accused of using campaign funds for personal use -- airline tickets, meals, phone bills -- a fairly common infraction.
Also, like most office holders, Mansho expected her staff to be involved in campaign activities. However, she allowed that work to be done during office hours on city property -- in her second-floor Honolulu Hale office or less overtly in a room on the fifth floor. The work included stuffing envelopes, soliciting contributions and donations of gifts to be used as prizes at her fund-raisers and performing other campaign chores.
Some of Mansho's cheerful misconduct was hare-brained. She arranged for a Honolulu Fire Department boat to spray water for her January 2000 fund-raiser at Aloha Tower, where another city department had set up potted palms for the event. She became a "spokesperson" for a company that sells electric cars, urged the city to buy the cars and used one of them at little or no cost for her own transportation needs.
Takata estimated the value of Mansho's misuse of her Council staff at $165,000 and asked the judge to order repayment of the entire amount. That would have been too harsh. Mansho already has paid $40,000 and has agreed to pay an additional $25,000. The sentence imposed by Kochi requires that she make good on that promise in the form of a $25,000 fine. Mansho's guilty pleas pertained to charges that she outright stole $20,000 in city funds and more than $300 from her campaign chest.
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