Camp Kailua supporters targeted
after testimony?

A community group wants an investigation
into tax record checks

By Ian Lind

A community group opposing demolition of Camp Kailua will ask for an investigation into whether the city did computer checks on people who testified against Mayor Jeremy Harris' plans at a hearing.

Ursula Retherford of Citizens for Camp Kailua said a review of records at the Department of Land Utilization turned up "clear evidence" that a computer check of property tax information was done on at least two people who submitted testimony.

Retherford said she found computer listings of property tax information taped to two sets of testimony in Land Utilization files. The information corresponds to the names and addresses of those who submitted the testimony.

The attached information was retrieved at 11:34 a.m. and 12:50 p.m. Feb. 6, the day following the hearing, from a computer terminal in the department, according to the printed forms.

It is our constitutional right to petition our government without
the fear of reprisal, the fear of being made the target of an
investigation, the fear of harassment and intimidation.

Ursula Retherford
Of the group Citizens for Camp Kailua

In one case, the listing included assessed property values of the testifier's home for 1988 and 1993. In the second case, the information printed from the city's real property assessment data system included the mailing address where the property tax bill is sent, but did not include assessment figures.

City officials confirmed the presence of the tax information but could not explain how or why it was placed in the files.

Retherford said fear of being targeted for investigation "is bound to send a chilling effect through our community."

In a letter sent to Common Cause and other groups last month, Retherford said: "Did all those who submitted testimony against the position of the city, and who were not already known to the city from previous checks, get targeted? This is what we have to assume, and it is an uncomfortable thought.

"It is our constitutional right to petition our government without the fear of reprisal, the fear of being made the target of an investigation, the fear of harassment and intimidation," the letter said.

Citizens for Camp Kailua will be asking Harris to investigate the matter, Retherford said.

City Council member Steve Holmes said yesterday that he would be "very concerned if this is indeed an attempt to intimidate people who come out and give testimony when they are stating a position in opposition to the administration."

More than 150 people turned in written comments or spoke at the hearing held at Kailua High School on Feb. 5. The majority of those testifying opposed the mayor's proposal to raze the camp.

Loretta Chee, deputy director of Land Utilization, said staff could not explain how the tax information got into the file.

She said the testimony and related files are open to public inspection, and property tax data is also public.

Chee said fear that the city is investigating Camp Kailua supporters "seems so ridiculous because there's nothing to be gained by knowing that kind of information."

"It's very puzzling to me," Chee said.

"This involved just two out of the many letters that we received. It's kind of a mystery, but it may be a big to-do about nothing."

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