City & County of Honolulu

Police arrest
Harris aide

The longtime official is
suspected of doing campaign
work on city time

By Rick Daysog and Gordon Y.K. Pang

The Honolulu Police Department has arrested a top official in the administration of Mayor Jeremy Harris and longtime Democratic Party organizer for allegedly conducting campaign work on city time.

HPD's white-collar team yesterday arrested Mike Amii, director of the city Community Services Department the last two years and volunteer coordinator for Harris campaigns, on suspicion of second-degree theft and racketeering.

Amii, 57, was not charged and was released pending further investigation.

The arrest is the first in city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle's six-month criminal investigation into alleged campaign finance irregularities of Harris' successful re-election effort in 2000.

Amii could not be reached for comment yesterday. City spokeswoman Carol Costa said Amii took the rest of the week off.

Harris, who dropped out of this year's race for governor on May 30, said in a news release that he was "stunned" by the allegations and called Amii "a man of integrity who has dedicated his life to public service."

"I have full confidence that he will be cleared of all allegations," Harris said.

William McCorriston, an attorney for the Harris campaign, said Amii's arrest was based on "misguided information" regarding his work for the city. He called Amii a hard-working city employee who spends 50 to 60 hours at week at City Hall.

According to McCorriston, Amii first heard of the allegations when he was asked to appear at HPD headquarters yesterday. Amii was not under subpoena and was not interviewed, said McCorriston, who added that Amii did not plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination.

"If Mike Amii did anything wrong, it was failing to fill out the little green (vacation) forms. That is not a criminal act," McCorriston said. "The city owes Mr. Amii vacation time, not the other way around."

Deputy Prosecutor Randal Lee said he would have no comment until charges are filed.

The allegations stem from mainland trips Amii took on behalf of the Harris campaign two years ago.

According to a complaint filed by the state Campaign Spending Commission in February, Amii traveled to Washington, D.C., with Harris and campaign Co-Chairman Rick Tsujimura in October 2000 to present the Democratic National Committee and Al Gore's presidential campaign with more than $100,000 in political contributions from 20 local donors.

Amii and Tsujimura also met with DNC officials in November 2000 in San Jose, Calif., commission records show.

The commission cited the trips as improper uses of campaign funds. The state agency also alleged that the Harris campaign wrongly reimbursed Amii for more than $280 in parking tickets in 1996.

The state agency dismissed the complaint earlier this year after the Harris campaign filed a federal court suit.

A state employee for more than two decades, Amii joined the administration in 1995, the year Harris became mayor.

Amii's duties as community services director include management of various human services, community development, housing and urban renewal programs and projects, including the soliciting and implementing of federal and state funding.

Like most other city department heads, Amii's pay was upped to $99,807 from $96,900 beginning July 1 after raises approved by the Salary Commission. He works out of a third-floor office at the Standard Financial Corp. near the Honolulu Municipal Building and City Hall.

Amii joined the Harris administration as a deputy director for community services in 1995. He left that job two years later to become deputy parks director, the job he held prior to returning to community services as director.

McCorriston described Amii's role in the Harris campaign as "volunteer coordinator" who organized and gave assignments to political workers.

Other longtime Democrats described him as a tireless organizer with a talent for motivating campaign troops. In 2000, Democrats selected him as one of four people to represent Hawaii residents to cast electoral college votes for Al Gore.

Amii's wife, Jan, is an attorney with the high-powered Watanabe Ing & Kawashima law firm, who was appointed by Harris to serve on the semi-autonomous Board of Water Supply.

Before working for the city, Amii held various jobs at the state level starting in 1970 with a five year-stint as a field representative for the Hawaii Job Corps, then a division of the Department of Labor.

From 1975 to 1982, he was project director of the Kalihi-Palama Community Services Center, part of the Progressive Neighborhood Program in the office of former Gov. George Ariyoshi.

From 1986 to 1995, as an appointee under ex-Gov. John Waihee, he was a special assistant in the Office of Community Services, part of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Longtime Democrats said Amii was a key campaign coordinator for Waihee and organized rallies for Ariyoshi's campaigns.

Councilman Steve Holmes said of Amii, "He's always struck me as a dedicated public servant."

City & County of Honolulu

E-mail to City Desk


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