Saturday, October 2, 2004

Harris campaign donor
is fined $2,000

The architect pleaded no contest
to charges of illegal donations

A state judge has ordered a local architect to pay $2,000 after he pleaded no contest to charges of making illegal political donations to Mayor Jeremy Harris' campaign.

District Judge Lono Lee granted Dwight Mitsunaga's request for a deferral, which allows him to get his criminal case dismissed if he stays out of trouble for a year.

Mitsunaga is president of Pacific Architects Inc. He also is the brother of local engineer Dennis Mitsunaga, who was a key fund-raiser for Harris, former Gov. Ben Cayetano and ex-Maui Mayor James "Kimo" Apana and a major target of investigations by the prosecutor's office and the state Campaign Spending Commission.

Earlier this month, prosecutors filed a criminal complaint alleging that Dwight Mitsunaga made a political donation under a false name to the Harris campaign and exceeded the $4,000 campaign contribution limit for the mayoral race.

Deputy Prosecutor Randal Lee said Mitsunaga and his company made more than $16,000 in illegal campaign contributions.

Randal Lee argued for a sentence of probation, saying it would bar the company from receiving state and city contracts and send a message to anyone who violates the state's campaign spending laws.

But Dale Lee, Mitsunaga's lawyer, said his client cooperated fully with investigators and that there is no indication his client will engage in further criminal acts.

Yesterday's sentencing came about a week after prosecutors said they received testimony from a local engineer that Mitsunaga's brother solicited campaign contributions in exchange for city and state contracts.

Randal Lee declined to discuss his investigation into Dennis Mitsunaga yesterday, but Bob Watada, executive director of the state Campaign Spending Commission, said several government contractors interviewed by his office have indicated that they were solicited by him for campaign contributions.

The commission has been investigating Mitsunaga for several years and has subpoenaed executive Terri Otani to meet with the commission. Otani declined to appear on advice of her attorney.

Dwight Mitsunaga's company, Pacific Architects, received more than 20 city contracts totaling $2.5 million since 1990, city records show.

Pacific Architects also received a number of state contracts and was one of the firms that worked on the controversial renovation of the University of Hawaii president's residence at College Hill.

The 2001 College Hill renovation initially was priced at $170,000 but soared to more than $1 million.



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