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Wednesday, November 20, 2002



Fire captain disciplined
for role in Lingle TV ads


By Rosemarie Bernardo
rbernardo@starbulletin.com

Honolulu fire Capt. Richard Soo was disciplined by Fire Chief Attilio Leonardi yesterday for appearing in commercials supporting Linda Lingle before the Nov. 5 gubernatorial election.

"We don't endorse any candidate," said Leonardi. "The commercial gave the impression that the Honolulu Fire Department supported Lingle. That's what was wrong with it."

Both Leonardi and Soo declined to provide details about the disciplinary action taken against Soo.

"I know Richard had the best intentions ... He was doing the commercial as a citizen. It just didn't work out that way," Leonardi said.

More than a month ago, Soo appeared in commercials as part of the Coalition of Democrats for Lingle for Governor. The commercial ran a caption describing Soo as a captain with the Hawaii Fire Department. After questions were raised by viewers and the fire administration, the caption was changed to describe Soo as a Democrat from Papakolea. Lingle, the GOP candidate, beat Democrat Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono in the election.

According to the Fire Department's rules and regulations, it states "members shall not as a member of the department or by using uniform, badge or prestige of the department, attempt to influence the votes of any persons for or against any candidate for public office."

The Honolulu Fire Department considered it inappropriate and prohibited Soo from dealing with the media as a spokesman until the election was over. An internal investigation followed the airing of the commercials.

Soo will resume his full duties as the department's public information officer Monday.

Both Soo and Leonardi said they want to put the matter behind them.



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