Saturday, October 13, 2001

Federal housing
agency wants
Council member’s
votes blocked

Officials cite Andy Mirikitani's
conviction on extortion charges

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Federal housing officials want City Councilman Andy Mirikitani to stop voting on issues involving their agency's programs or money and say there could be consequences for the city if he doesn't.

A federal jury in July found Mirikitani guilty of extorting kickbacks from two of his employees. He has remained on the Council while awaiting sentencing scheduled for Dec. 4.

Mirikitani's conviction triggered the local office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to impose a "limited denial of participation" status on Mirikitani in mid-August, according to Gordan Furutani, the agency's Hawaii coordinator.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development disperses millions of dollars annually to the city through Community Development Block Grants, Section 8 and other programs. The city receives $13 million from CDBG grants.

"The objective is to look out for public funds," Furutani said. "If we have these people that have done wrong with regard to HUD programs and we allow them to continue participating in the programs, we may lose money or we may have problems with implementation of the programs."

Typically, Furutani said, people or organizations placed on the list are "people who have been convicted of embezzlement, people who have somehow inappropriately handled HUD funds or not participated in good faith in regard to HUD programs."

According to a letter sent to the Council, with a vote by Mirikitani on a HUD project, "the project may be denied and the city may be subject to HUD sanctions."

But Furutani said yesterday the city likely won't lose any funding if Mirikitani were to vote on a HUD-related issue.

"It's more a matter of them losing time or getting things moving," he said. "But we're not going to be taking away any money."

His office will only scrutinize situations where Mirikitani's vote would have swung a Council decision a certain way, Furutani said.

In such instances, he said, his office may ask Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura to take another vote without Mirikitani's participation.

Furutani said it is not clear if Mirikitani is abiding by the instruction. The initial notice HUD sent to Mirikitani at his office returned unopened.

"So we sent him two more, and we don't know if he got it or what because we didn't hear anything from him with regard to a hearing or a conference call to appeal the decision," Furutani said.

The appeal period has now lapsed, and Mirikitani's name has now been placed on a list of people and organizations who are on "limited denial of participation" status.

Mirikitani could not be reached for comment yesterday. Yoshimura was traveling abroad and also could not be reached for comment.

Yoshimura's aides said they are looking at next Wednesday's Council agenda to see if there are any HUD-related items. If so, they said, Mirikitani may be asked not to vote.

The Council has had one meeting since the HUD notice. At the Sept. 26 Council meeting, members did take a vote on a HUD-related bill.

Mirikitani attended that meeting but, according to the city clerk's office, was out of the room when that vote was taken.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin