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Thursday, August 12, 2004



Panel probes isle
architecture firm

A grand jury issues subpoenas
as an investigation into
Harris gifts continues


City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle has opened a new grand jury investigation into a local architecture firm as part of his probe into illegal political contributions to Mayor Jeremy Harris' campaign.

The secret panel recently issued subpoenas to several potential witnesses for an Aug. 26 hearing, which will focus on political donations by local architect Kurt Mitchell and several associates, according to subpoena recipients.

Mitchell, who is chief executive officer of Kober Hanssen Mitchell Architects, was not available for comment. Prosecutors declined comment.

The grand jury investigation comes as the state Campaign Spending Commission is conducting a separate investigation into contributions linked to the firm.

State campaign spending records show that the Harris campaign received more than $4,500 in political donations from Kober Hanssen employees in 2000 and 2001.

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

Kober Hanssen, which traces its corporate roots back to 1935, is one of the state's largest architecture firms.

The city has awarded the firm nearly $5 million in nonbid city jobs since 1987, including a $2.9 million contract to design the Kapolei Hale satellite office building.

Harris' attorneys have denied any link between political contributions and the awarding of city contracts.

Since it began its investigation nearly two years ago, the prosecutor's office has obtained criminal charges against dozens of contributors to the Harris campaign.

Several top engineering and construction executives, including former SSFM International Inc. Chief Executive Michael Matsumoto, ex-University of Hawaii regent Donald Kim and former Honolulu Police Commissioner Leonard Leong, have pleaded no contest to making illegal campaign contributions.



Campaign Spending Commission
www.hawaii.gov/campaign

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