Friday, January 15, 1999

Gene Ward seeks
benefits by joining
legislator’s staff

By Mike Yuen


If he is unable to find another job before Tuesday, former state House Minority Leader Gene Ward, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress, is going back to the state Capitol -- as the $2,605-a-month chief of staff for state Rep. Mark Moses.

The position could get Ward vested in the state's retirement plan. He needs just three months to qualify.

"You don't cut short your family because you're three months short," said Ward. "You got to understand it from a family position, not a political position."

Ward, 55, who is married and has a 4-year-old adopted daughter, said his difficulty getting a retirement-qualifying government job outside of the Legislature "shows how weak the patronage system is when someone is not a Democrat."

"I've got 10 years of overseas experience, 20 years of experience as a (chief executive officer). Does that say something about me or which side of the (political) aisle you're on?" he asked.

The position with Moses is his "last resort," Ward said last night. "My preference is not to go to the Legislature."

Ward said he also applied for jobs with Democratic Gov. Ben Cayetano, whom he campaigned against, and Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris, a Democrat who endorsed Cayetano's re-election bid.

Asked if it is awkward seeking a job from Cayetano, Ward said: "The governor himself said he would hire some (Linda) Lingle people, and he's done that. There is a spirit of reaching out."

What he really wants to do, Ward said, is become the senior political adviser for United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia has written him a letter of recommendation for that post, said Ward, who has also applied for jobs at the University of Hawaii, the East-West Center and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Moses (R, Kapolei) acknowledged he may face criticism for hiring Ward since some may interpret the move as a ploy to get Ward eligible for state benefits.

"My concern," Moses said, "came down to his vast experience and his qualifications."

House Vice Speaker Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa) said it seems like Ward will be doing the same thing that he criticized Democrats for doing. "But I won't pass judgment," Oshiro said.

Moses, 50, has been Ward's close political ally and endorsed Ward last year over then-House Minority Leader Quentin Kawananakoa for the GOP nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie.

Moses said Ward is to start work on Tuesday, the day before the Legislature convenes. Ward would need to work at least until April 19 to become vested, which is 15 days before the session's scheduled adjournment.

Moses said he hopes Ward will stay until the session ends. "It's his call," Moses said.

"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it," Ward said.

Ward is close to the 10-year requirement for vesting because he is credited with his eight years as a state representative and 21 months of military service.

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