A grand jury probes
the donation of over $300,000
to Harris' mayoral campaign
City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle has convened a grand jury to investigate a local engineering firm whose employees and subcontractors contributed more than $300,000 to Mayor Jeremy Harris' campaign.
The secret panel issued subpoenas this week to people linked to city contractor R.M. Towill Corp. for a Nov. 5 hearing at state Circuit Court, according to one subpoena recipient.
The subpoenas do not indicate whether the grand jury will seek indictments, but people familiar with the prosecutor's investigation said they expect the proceedings will result in criminal charges.
The Prosecutor's Office had no response, and Towill officials were not available for comment.
Bill McCorriston, Harris' attorney, denied any link between political donations and the awarding of contracts. McCorriston said Harris is the first mayor to implement safeguards that took political fund-raisers out of the contracting process.
Towill, one of the state's largest engineering firms, has received more than 30 nonbid city contracts totaling more than $30 million during the past seven years. They include a $3.9 million contract to manage the city's $300 million expansion of the Sand Island Treatment Plant.
During the same seven-year period, Towill's employees and people linked to their subcontractors made more than 280 political donations totaling $319,000 to the Harris campaign, according to a Star-Bulletin analysis.
The amount -- about 6 percent of all money collected by the Harris campaign since 1996 -- exceeds the $212,000 in illegal campaign contributions raised by rival engineering firm SSFM International Inc., whose executives pleaded no contest this year to criminal violations of the state campaign spending law.
Under state law, contributors are barred from making political donations under false names. Donors also can give no more than $4,000 to a mayoral candidate and $6,000 to a gubernatorial candidate during a four-year election cycle.
The grand jury subpoenas were issued three months after Honolulu Police arrested Towill executives Roy Tsutsui, Nancy Matsuno and Kenneth Sakai and former Towill employee Robert Ko on suspicion of making political donations under false names. HPD also arrested several people linked to Towill subcontractor NTW Associates Inc. on suspicion of similar charges.
None of those arrested were charged with a crime and Tsutsui, Matsuno and Sakai have since sued the arresting officer, Maj. Dan Hanagami, for harassment and for violating their constitutional rights.
Attorney Carl Varady, who represents the three Towill employees, said he is unaware of the grand jury subpoenas. Varady said he is in the process of resolving some of the issues raised in his clients' lawsuit.
The Prosecutor's Office, which launched its criminal investigation into the Harris campaign in January 2002, has obtained no-contest pleas from about half a dozen donors, including SSFM Chief Executive Officer Mike Matsumoto and Controlpoint Surveying Inc. President Alden Kajioka.
During the same period, the state Campaign Spending Commission has issued more than $900,000 in fines against more than 60 local companies for making illegal political donations to Harris, former Gov. Ben Cayetano, former Maui Mayor James "Kimo" Apana and other local Democrats.