Thursday, June 26, 2003

Harris campaign
supporter arrested

An investigation nets
the vice president of
a large city consultant

Honolulu police arrested an executive with one of the state's largest engineering firms yesterday morning as part of city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle's criminal investigation into Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris' political campaign.

Roy Tsutsui, a vice president at R.M. Towill Corp., appeared at HPD headquarters where he was booked on suspicion of money laundering, making a political contribution under a false name and illegally owning a business.

Tsutsui, 52, also was booked on suspicion of attempting to create an illegal monopoly, indicating that prosecutors may be looking beyond alleged campaign spending violations and examining how R.M. Towill obtained lucrative nonbid city contracts.

Tsutsui, who was not charged, was released pending investigation.

Tsutsui could not be reached for comment, and an attorney for R.M. Towill did not return calls. The prosecutor's office had no comment.

City officials and attorneys for the Harris campaign have denied any connection between political donations and the awards of city contracts.

Tsutsui's arrest is the latest in Carlisle's 18-month criminal investigation into the Harris campaign.

Earlier this month, local attorney Ed Chun surrendered to authorities after an Oahu grand jury indicted him for allegedly orchestrating $9,000 in illegal campaign contributions to the Harris campaign. Chun pleaded not guilty.

That arrest came after Michael Matsumoto, chief executive of the local engineering firm SSFM International Inc., pleaded no contest in January to laundering $139,500 to the Harris campaign.

Last July, Honolulu police arrested Mike Amii, a top city official and longtime Democratic Party organizer, for allegedly conducting campaign work on city time. He has not been charged.

City prosecutors and the HPD have been investigating R.M. Towill since February, when they issued a subpoena seeking hundreds of pages of company records for the 1996-2002 period. The request included documents relating to city contracts, political contributions, payments to subcontractors and gifts to city officials.

Founded in 1930, R.M. Towill is one of the city's largest outside consultants. The company has received about $17 million in nonbid city contracts since 1996, including $2.9 million to manage the $300 million expansion of the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant.

A computer-assisted study by the Star-Bulletin found that R.M. Towill employees and their relatives made more than $42,000 in campaign contributions to the Harris campaign during the past 10 years.

The company also donated $25,000 in 1999 to the Environmental Foundation, a nonprofit group that helps organize the biennial Mayor's Asia-Pacific Environmental Summit.

Under state law a donor can give no more than $4,000 to a mayoral candidate during a four-year election cycle. Donors also are barred from making political donations under false names.

The R.M. Towill firm figured in another major scandal that rocked Honolulu Hale during the tenure of then-Mayor Frank Fasi. In the aftermath of the Kukui Plaza development controversy, a federal grand jury indicted the engineering company's former head Richard Towill in 1975 for allegedly filing a false corporate tax return.

The federal indictment, based on an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, charged that Towill awarded $13,850 in bonuses in 1969 to employees who were required to make political contributions with that money to Fasi and other local politicians.

A federal grand jury found Towill not guilty in 1979.

In 1977 a separate Oahu grand jury indicted Towill along with Fasi and former Fasi campaign treasurer Harry C.C. Chung on related charges, but the state later dropped the case.


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