Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Contractors kicked
in $84,000
to city summit

The mayor’s meeting on the
environment has attracted
attention in a campaign probe

By Rick Daysog

City contractors contributed more than $84,000 to a 1999 environmental summit that is a subject of city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle's investigation into Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris' 2000 re-election campaign.

RM Towill Corp., Park Engineering, CH2M Hill, Water Resources Inc., Mitsunaga & Associates Inc., M&E Pacific Inc. and USFilter Inc. each gave $7,500 to $15,000 for the Mayor's Asia-Pacific Environmental Summit in 1999.

Towill and Park are linked to tens of thousands of dollars in questionable contributions to the Harris campaign. Since 1996 the seven firms have received millions of dollars in city contracts from the Harris administration.

Election 2002

Carlisle's office and the Honolulu Police Department's white-collar division recently queried members of the Honolulu City Council about a $100,000 city appropriation to the conference as part of a criminal investigation into political contributions to the Harris campaign from city contractors.

Prosecutor's also subpoenaed the Bank of Hawaii and First Hawaiian Bank for the financial records of the Environmental Foundation and the Friends of the City & County of Honolulu, which helped organize the summit.

The disclosure comes as an Oahu grand jury subpoenaed dozens of city contractors, city officials and campaign workers earlier this month as part of Carlisle's investigation into the Harris campaign.

The Environmental Foundation is a locally based organization headed by Harris campaign official Peter Char. In 1999 the foundation and a separate nonprofit headed by Char, the Friends of the City & County of Honolulu, raised about $560,000 for the environmental summit.

The Mayor's Asia-Pacific Environmental Summit is a city-sponsored conference held every two years. The first summit was held in January 1999 and was attended by nearly 500 delegates from 29 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

William McCorriston, attorney for the Harris campaign, said there is nothing wrong with city contractors contributing to the mayor's summit or other worthwhile charitable causes such the Honolulu Symphony, Honolulu City Lights or Honolulu youth sports.

He said less than 20 percent of the contributions to the summit came from city contractors, while large endowments such as the Rockefeller Foundation, the First Hawaiian Bank Foundation and Japanese-based AEON Environmental Foundation provided more than $200,000 for the event.

McCorriston also defended the city's $100,000 appropriation to the Friends of the City, which was approved by the City Council. He said the Harris administration appropriated the money to the Friends of the City under a contract that specified that it would only be used for the summit.

"They're going to find absolutely nothing," McCorriston said. "The reputations of very good people are going to be smeared."

The prosecutor's office had no comment.

Two of the firms -- Park and Towill -- have been subpoenaed by the Oahu grand jury looking into the Harris campaign. But it is not clear whether the subpoenas are related to the firms' contributions to the environmental summit.

State campaign spending records show that Park Engineering's officers and their relatives gave more than $80,000 to Harris' campaign. The firm also gave about $26,000 to Gov. Ben Cayetano's 1998 re-election campaign.

Since 1996 the city has awarded the company more than $5.5 million in nonbid work, including a $1.5 million contract to help build sewer facilities in Kalihi Valley and a $300,000 engineering contract for the Ted Makalena Golf Course, according to city records.

Officers of RM Towill and their relatives gave more than $42,000 in campaign contributions to the Harris campaign since 1996. During the same period, the Harris administration has awarded the Towill firm more than $16 million in nonbid work, including a $2.9 million contract to manage the city's planned $300 million expansion of the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Under state law a donor can give no more than $4,000 to a mayoral candidate during a four-year election cycle. The limit for a gubernatorial race is $6,000 per donor.

City records also show that the Harris administration has awarded M&E Pacific and Mitsunaga about $2 million each in nonbid work since 1996, while the firms of CH2M Hill and Earth Tech have received more than $1 million in nonbid work.

USFilter built the $48 million Honouliuli Wastewater Reclamation Facility for the city, while Water Resources International Inc., a subsidiary of Barnwell Industries Inc., has conducted contract drilling work for the Board of Water Supply.

E-mail to City Desk


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