Thursday, June 14, 2001

Mirikitani aide
testifies on ‘deal’

The trial's first witness
says a bonus hinged on
giving to the campaign

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

A former aide to City Councilman Andy Mirikitani says she does not believe she would have received a bonus from him in 1999 if she had not given him a portion of the money back.

Cindy McMillan was the first witness yesterday in the first day of the trial against Mirikitani, accused of bribery, theft, extortion, wire fraud and two counts of witness tampering.

He is accused of giving bonuses to McMillan and Jonn Serikawa, another former aide, in exchange for kickbacks and then attempting to hide the scheme.

John Edmunds, Mirikitani's attorney, said in his opening statement that there was no direct correlation between the bonus and the contribution to the Friends of Andy Mirikitani made by McMillan.

But McMillan's testimony rebutted that argument. "I feel it was a 100 percent tie-in," she said, "that if I didn't give the campaign contribution, I wouldn't get the bonus." While he did not state explicitly that the bonus was tied to the campaign contribution, she said, "he used the word 'deal.'"

McMillan testified that she and her husband, an attorney, looked into the legality of an employee contributing to the campaign of her boss and were told it was OK.

They did not, however, ask anyone about the propriety of contributing to the campaign as a condition of a bonus, she said.

Grilled by Edmunds several times about why they did not ask anyone about the propriety of that contribution, McMillan said: "I can't explain it. I'm just telling you it didn't cross my mind."

McMillan said that after she wrote a $4,000 check to the campaign committee, Mirikitani called her about six weeks later and asked her if she could give him cash instead. She later declined.

McMillan also testified that in February 2000, after she had left his employment and was working as a contract hire for the city Department of Transportation Services, Mirikitani approached her at a city news conference and told her to deny that they had ever made a deal.

McMillan said she always liked and worked well with Mirikitani and had no qualms about contributing to the campaign committee, which she chaired for a time. Nonetheless, she said, she felt uncomfortable about the arrangement.

"I felt it was somewhat unfair," she said. "I felt either I deserved the bonus or I didn't."

Edmunds, during his opening statement, hinted that he will try to discredit Serikawa and will bring up the fact that he failed to state he was a convicted felon when he applied for a job with Mirikitani.

He said Mirikitani will testify on his own behalf.

The indictment alleges Serikawa gave Mirikitani cash. Edmunds said yesterday that there was no kickback and that any money he gave Mirikitani was the result of a loan.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Seabright, in his opening statement, said the case against Mirikitani was about debt, greed and deception.

In the throes of an unrelated lawsuit, Seabright said, Mirikitani had racked up more than $110,000 in unpaid bills to the law firm of Torkildson Katz Fonseca Jaffe Moore & Hetherington in only three months.

Additionally, Mirikitani owed about $9,000 in two bank loans, Seabright said.

McMillan, during testimony, relayed a conversation between herself and Sharron Bynum, Mirikitani's girlfriend and co-defendant in the case.

"She said the kickback could not have come at a better time because they had a lot of bills," McMillan said, adding that the word "kickback" was Bynum's choice.

Both McMillan and Serikawa have been granted immunity from prosecution, a point Edmunds also raised to question the credibility of the two employees.

Seabright, however, on several occasions countered Edmunds by objecting and stating that the immunity of the two former aides was under the condition they tell the truth during the trial, not that they cooperate fully with prosecutors.

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