Rene Mansho dabbed away tears yesterday as her attorney, James Koshiba, made final arguments on her behalf during sentencing at Circuit Court.

Mansho sentence
pleases former aides

They say justice has been served
with the 1-year jail term ruling

Mortuary post in jeopardy

By Debra Barayuga and Gordon Y.K. Pang

Michelle Kidani and six other former staff aides of former Councilwoman Rene Mansho waited in the Circuit Court gallery to hear her apologize for ordering them to do campaign work on city time.

Instead, they watched and listened as Mansho attorney James Koshiba accused Kidani of working on campaign activity during city time to save her own $61,000-a-year job as senior aide and criticize the other employees as well -- although Mansho pleaded guilty to two counts of felony theft.

"The fact is, she is being charged, in part, for the activities of others, and in fact she is taking responsibility for them," Koshiba told the court while arguing that Mansho should not be sentenced to jail time, but receive only probation.

"This is a case in which she is the leader and she is being punished and no one else is," Koshiba told the court while arguing that Mansho should not be sentenced to jail, but receive only probation. "Rene has taken full responsibility for everyone."

Kidani and the others said they were stunned that Mansho did not apologize to them.

But they were satisfied with Circuit Judge Dan Kochi's sentence of one year in jail, five years' probation and a $25,000 fine in addition to the $40,000 she has already paid to the Campaign Spending Commission and $40,000 in restitution she has made to the city.

"While it's a very sad day for Rene's family, I believe justice has been served, and I'm happy to see an end to all this," Kidani told reporters while clasping the hands of two of her former colleagues. All of the former aides had tears in their eyes.

Kidani said she never expected Mansho to receive the maximum 10-year sentence that prosecutors had hoped for, but added that she was not disappointed. "I think the judge in his wisdom acknowledged that (elected office) is an honorable profession, and they should be held accountable and responsible."

Kidani first met Mansho because she taught her eldest daughter as a fifth-grader at Mililani Uka Elementary. She said she knows Mansho went into politics with good intentions.

"Otherwise, I wouldn't have helped her get elected, and I wouldn't have worked for her," Kidani said. "I really do believe her intentions were honorable."

Kidani said she and Mansho used to talk about other politicians with questionable intentions. "She would always tell me, 'Kick my ass if I ever turn out to be like that.'"

Things started to go awry, Kidani said, when Mansho won re-election in 1990 and 1994 without any opposition.

"I think it was a lack of accountability to anybody," Kidani said. "Every year she did a little bit more and got away with it, so every year it got worse and worse. In the early days, when we would say, 'This is questionable, I don't think we should be doing this,' she would listen and she would pull back."

Moments after her sentencing, Mansho was escorted out of the courtroom to be transported to the Oahu Community Correctional Center for processing and then to the Women's Community Correctional Center.

During the next three to four days, Mansho will undergo assessment to determine the level of supervision necessary and where she will be housed, said WCCC Warden John Kellam.

Although incarceration was ordered, it is possible she will not have to serve her entire year behind bars at the Kailua facility.

Based on the diagnostic assessment, her behavior in prison and if she meets certain requirements, Mansho could be put on extended furlough from the facility where she can live out in the community, be placed on electronic monitoring and be required to check in periodically.

Or she could be placed at a halfway house such as Matlock Hale in Moiliili where women who are generally in their last 12 to 14 months of their sentence are sent. She also could be placed in the program where she only reports to the women's prison during the day to work in and around the facility or participate in work lines in the community.

"Ms. Mansho will not be afforded any more opportunities or any less than any citizen coming off the street," Kellam said.

Koshiba had argued that Mansho should not be incarcerated because she has accepted responsibility, cooperated fully with the Campaign Spending and city Ethics commissions' investigations and has demonstrated devoted service to the community and charitable causes during her more than 12 years on the Council.

"She used her position and title to try to do more good in the community," Koshiba said yesterday.

Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Takata said Mansho hurt more than helped her community. He said she should not be entitled to special treatment because of the support she has received from the community. The court had received numerous letters of support on her behalf.

"This is not another election. This is not another popularity contest," Takata said.

Prosecutors say her conduct began just months after she took office in October 1988 and continued until December 2000.

Bob Watada, executive director of the Campaign Spending Commission, called Mansho's situation unfortunate. "But it does send a message that candidates and all elected officials have to maintain the highest standard of ethics and very clearly follow all the laws."

He said if the commission finds other politicians doing the same, "we'll take the same action."


Mansho will likely
be removed from
mortuary board position

By Dave Segal

Former City Councilwoman Rene Mansho likely will be removed as chairwoman of publicly traded Honolulu-based Hosoi Garden Mortuary.

Mansho, who has been on Hosoi's board since 1993 and the chairwoman since 1994, attended the company's monthly board meetings as recently as last week.

Clifford Hosoi, president, chief executive and funeral director of the family-controlled, century-old funeral home, said Mansho's status will be discussed July 18 at the next board meeting.

"If she would have gotten probation or a deferral and community service, we would have had to decide if it was appropriate for her to be on the board of directors," Hosoi said. "Now that's she's going to need to serve some prison time, I believe that would eliminate her from the directorship."

Mansho, who holds no shares of the company, receives $100 for attending each board meeting and $25 for a committee meeting.

John Heine, a spokesman for the Securities and Exchange Commission, said there was no SEC regulation that would prohibit Mansho from continuing to serve in her position.

Likewise, Hawaii's Uniform Securities Act requires disclosure but does not mandate removal of an officer or director because of a criminal conviction.

Hosoi said Mansho's status was not formally discussed at the company's monthly board meeting last week but that her situation has been discussed informally by some of the board members.

He praised her for the work she has done with the company over the past decade.

"It's not a real prestigious or high-paying position, but she has taken it as sort of a community service," Hosoi said. "As a private business, she tries to impart some help and guide us. And on the board level, she's always been cognizant of her primary duty as a respondent to the shareholders. She's probably increased our level of communication from management to the board."

Hosoi Garden Mortuary's thinly traded stock, listed on the national quotation service Pink Sheets, has about 1,500 shareholders. It last traded on Friday when it fell 20 cents to $4.30 on a volume of 100 shares.

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