Rene Mansho arrived at City Hall yesterday for her last day of work as a City Council member. Mansho abruptly resigned from the job yesterday morning, the same day a grand jury was to have convened to hear possible criminal charges against her over campaign spending violations.

to Mansho
appears certain

A Council resolution supports
Waipahu leader Darrlyn Bunda

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

A longtime Central Oahu community leader appears likely to be the next member of the City Council.

At least six of the eight remaining Council members believe Darrlyn Bunda, the executive director of the Waipahu Community Association, is the best choice to replace Rene Mansho.

Mansho resigned yesterday, the day when a state grand jury had been scheduled to hear possible criminal charges against her. It is expected that Mansho will agree to a waiver of indictment and face arraignment on theft and possibly fraud charges in the coming days.

Council Chairman John DeSoto confirmed, reluctantly, that he and five others have already signed a resolution making Bunda the ninth member.

DeSoto was responding to Councilman Steve Holmes, who complained that "there should have been a more democratic process" for picking a successor to Mansho.

Holmes said that the last time the Council appointed replacement colleagues in the wake of resignations, a public call was made for candidates.

"I told him my preference would be for a more open process where other candidates could put their names up for consideration," he said. "It seems like they've already made up their minds."

DeSoto, however, said the pick was not a done deal because the Council had yet to vote on it. The decision is not final without public input, he said, adding that he is not averse to considering other names.

The nomination of Bunda, whose husband, Ronald, is the uncle of Senate President Robert Bunda, is expected to be heard during a public hearing April 24.

A Mililani Mauka resident, she is the former head of the Leeward Oahu Transportation Management Association.

DeSoto said members want to move quickly with a replacement because the Council is in the thick of the budget review season.

The City Charter states the Council has 30 days to appoint a replacement or Mayor Jeremy Harris will have the opportunity to do so.

DeSoto said that he approached each Council member with the names of people expressing interest, asking who they thought would be the best choice, and six expressed the same person as the top pick. Besides Holmes, the one other person who has not signed on for Bunda is Jon Yoshimura, who asked for more time to decide whom he prefers, DeSoto said.

Earlier in the day, DeSoto told reporters that at least seven other people besides Bunda were interested in the Mansho seat. Only four of them were under consideration because the others acknowledged they would be seeking a Council seat in the fall.

The three other finalists, he said, are Mark Kelilikane of the Mililani Golf Association, Jake Ng of the North Shore Neighborhood Board and Bill Bass, the former executive director of the Barbers Point Naval Air Station Redevelopment Commission, DeSoto said.

The four not under consideration, because they are considering possible Council races, were state Rep. Nestor Garcia (D, Waipahu, Crestview), former Honolulu Police Chief Michael Nakamura, former state Sen. Gerald Hagino and businessman and community leader Cliff Laboy.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the prosecutor's office and Mansho declined to explain what her resignation means for her legal situation.

City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle declined to discuss the case, while James Koshiba, Mansho's attorney, did not return numerous calls.

Sources say Mansho is facing charges tied to allegations that she misused her campaign funds and made her Council staff do campaign activities on city time.

Mansho, in talking to reporters, also would not say if the resignation is tied to a plea agreement with prosecutors as has been speculated.

Colleagues and constituents of Mansho had mixed feelings about her resignation.

"If you had a complaint and you called her office, she would do her best to attempt to help you," said Annette Yamaguchi, longtime chairwoman of the Waipahu Neighborhood Board. Nonetheless, she said, "as a taxpayer, my taxpayer money got used in a wrong way, and that's wrong."

Councilman Duke Bainum called it unfortunate that Mansho's career was ending on a negative note. "I also regret this loss in confidence by the public in the city government."

Blake McElheny, a North Shore community activist, also expressed mixed feelings.

"Although many of us on the North Shore are thankful for her public service and recent efforts to have Waimea Valley become a county park, there were several times over the years where we lost confidence that she was acting in the best public interest," he said.

Mansho, a 52-year-old former schoolteacher, has been on the Council since October 1988.

Mansho is the second member of the Council to resign amidst turmoil in the past six months.

Convicted former Councilman Andy Mirikitani resigned at the end of November just before he was sentenced on federal charges that he received kickbacks from bonuses given to Council aides.

City & County of Honolulu

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