Fox's conviction still making waves
Lingle says she advised him to resign, but the decision was his alone
Democrats are questioning why Gov. Linda Lingle kept quiet about the sexual abuse charge against fellow Republican state Rep. Galen Fox, who informed Lingle shortly after he was arrested last year.
"Lingle knew about Fox's December arrest and recent conviction," said Tom Brower, Democratic Party communications director, who ran and lost to Fox in House races. "Now she must state why she was content in overlooking it. If not for the media stories, she would have said nothing,"
Lingle declined to answer the criticism. "They (Democrats) can question it, but I don't have anything new to add at this time," she said yesterday.
The governor repeated her statement that she had urged Fox, who represents Waikiki and Ala Moana, to resign after he was convicted of a federal misdemeanor charge of abusive sexual conduct for groping a female passenger on a flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles. The incident happened Dec. 18. Fox was convicted on Oct. 20.
She also said state lawmakers who are convicted in state or federal courts should resign even if the offense does not require them to do so.
A Lingle spokesman said Fox called her office shortly after his conviction but did not speak to the governor. Lingle said for four days last month she was traveling on Maui, and the earliest she could meet with Fox was Monday.
"I gave him my best advice, and it was his decision to make," she said. "I felt it was the appropriate thing for him to do. It was not an easy decision, but I gave him my opinion that he should resign."
"I think, for the benefit of the people in his district, it is important to them that they have someone who they have complete confidence in.
"I know there are Democrats who have been convicted and who have not resigned," Lingle said. She did not identify those Democrats, but two current neighbor isle legislators have criminal pasts.
In 1988, J. Kalani English, who is now a state senator representing East Maui, Lanai and Molokai, pleaded guilty to a charge of cocaine possession. A judge deferred acceptance of the guilty plea if English kept out of trouble, and in 1990 the charge was dismissed.
In 1997, Rep. Dwight Takamine (D, Hawi-Hilo) pleaded guilty to harassing his wife, shoving her and bruising her elbow. Takamine, who is now the House Finance chairman, was sentenced to six months of probation and counseling.
State law prevents persons convicted of a felony from voting or becoming candidates for public office from the time of sentencing until final discharge. Public office held at the time of a felony conviction in state or federal court is to be forfeited.
In July 2004, former GOP Rep. Brian Blundell was arrested for groping an undercover male police officer in a Waikiki bathroom. After the arrest, Lingle supported Blundell's re-election, saying: "The people of Maui are extremely compassionate. They know him so well. ... He's done a good job for them."
Blundell pleaded no contest to the charges in September 2004, although the court hearing on the no-contest plea was not held until after the November election. Blundell was not re-elected.
Lingle said yesterday that Blundell was not convicted before the election and was presumed innocent. "It was a different situation. Rep. Blundell was not convicted of a crime at the time that I found out about it," she said.
Fox is resigning effective Dec. 1. Lingle said she would start accepting resumes from or about persons interested in filling the remaining year in the Waikiki Republican's term.
The governor described a stricter vetting process for potential candidates in response to her September appointment of businesswoman Bev Harbin to the state House. After appointing Harbin to fill the position vacated by Democratic Rep. Ken Hiraki, Lingle learned through news reports that Harbin had been convicted of a misdemeanor and also owed $123,000 in back taxes, information that Harbin did not disclose to the governor.
Now, Lingle said, anyone applying for Fox's position must sign a form "allowing us to have access to their tax records to make a determination that they are current with all their taxes."
Lingle said her office would also do a criminal history check and ask for an affidavit pledging that the information they provide is truthful. "That would provide some protection after the fact if the Legislature wanted to remove someone ... if they lied on a legal affidavit," she said.