Saturday, November 17, 2001

Mirikitani indicates
he’ll resign

He may be able to keep his
retirement benefits if he resigns
before his sentencing on Dec. 4

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

City Councilman Andy Mirikitani is apparently getting ready to resign before his Dec. 4 sentencing date in U.S. District Court.

Mirikitani has notified the state Employees' Retirement System that he intends to resign effective Dec. 2, a step that puts him in line to be eligible for health and other benefits once he steps down.

Meanwhile, Mirikitani has apparently told his four-member staff that he wants their resignations before he leaves.

Neither Mirikitani nor John Edmunds, his attorney, returned calls yesterday.

Mirikitani was found guilty in federal court in July of receiving kickbacks from two aides in return for bonuses. He faces up to 65 years in prison when sentenced Dec. 4.

Council leaders were anticipating that they would need to invoke a state law forcing Mirikitani to be removed from office following his sentencing.

It is not clear whether Mirikitani would be able to retain his benefits if he does not resign on his own.

The Council's administrative office learned of Mirikitani's intent to resign yesterday after it received notification from the ERS office, said Council floor leader Steve Holmes.

"The presumption is that he's been advised by his attorneys that if he leaves the Council prior to his being sentenced, he preserves his right to collect retirement benefits from the city," Holmes said.

Council members can withdraw money from the retirement fund after retiring with at least 10 years of service. Mirikitani also would be eligible for health benefits once he leaves prison.

Holmes said Mirikitani told his staff yesterday that he wants them to resign on Nov. 30, the Friday before his anticipated Dec. 2 resignation.

The move came as a surprise to the staffers since the office of Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura has told the employees that they would be kept on to serve the 5th Council District until Mirikitani's replacement is installed.

The City Charter requires a special election to be held within 60 days to fill a vacancy on the Council.

City Clerk Genny Wong said Mirikitani's colleagues are expected to approve a time line for that special election at its meeting on Dec. 12.

Under that time line, those living in the district, which encompasses Manoa, Makiki, McCully-Moiliili and Ala Moana, could petition to be on the special election ballot from Dec. 13 to 26, Wong said.

Unlike those seeking a Council seat in a regular election, an interested party would not need to obtain signatures from the community.

An election would likely be held Feb. 2, Wong said. The Saturday vote would take place at 21 polling places in the district.

The process will cost the city about $225,000, Wong said, which would include the cost of printing the ballots, tabulating the results and hiring more than 150 precinct workers.

There are roughly 35,000 registered voters in the district, Wong said.

Several people have expressed interest in Mirikitani's seat.

Former legislator Ann Kobayashi, who served in the state Senate for 14 years, said yesterday she intends to be on the ballot. The Manoa resident, who also has three years of city experience as an executive assistant, is currently a special assistant to Gov. Ben Cayetano.

Former state Rep. Sam Aiona, a Makiki resident and a loan officer for a mortgage company, said he is "leaning toward" running for the seat when it opens up.

Other announced candidates include former Councilman Kekoa Kaapu and John Steelquist, longtime chairman of the Makiki/Lower Punchbowl/Tantalus Neighborhood Board.

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