Police commissioner
quits as firm is fined

Leong resigns amid accusations
of illegal campaign donations

Honolulu Police Commissioner Leonard Leong resigned from the panel yesterday, the same day his company, Royal Contracting Co., was fined $20,000 for making illegal political donations.

A majority of police commissioners had called on Leong to resign last week after he pleaded no contest to contributing money to Mayor Jeremy Harris' campaign under a false name, a misdemeanor.

"I felt it was best to resign so that the commission could move on with its business instead of focusing on this problem," Leong said yesterday. "I had a lot of encouragement from friends and business associates and police officers to remain, but they couldn't match the media's assault."

Leong, a member of the commission for seven years, had said previously he did not think the conviction for making a false-name contribution would affect his ability to serve. The seven-member voluntary board investigates charges brought by the public against police officers and is responsible for hiring the police chief.

In pleading no contest, Leong paid a $1,000 fine and may have his record cleared if he stays out of trouble for a year. The charge could have meant a year in jail.

City Managing Director Ben Lee accepted Leong's resignation, thanking Leong "for his many years of service on the Police Commission and for the excellent job he's done as chair of the commission."

The state Campaign Spending Commission voted yesterday to fine Royal Contracting $20,000 for making illegal political contributions to Harris, former Councilman Mufi Hannemann and D.G. "Andy" Anderson, a gubernatorial candidate.

Company officers, employees and their relatives gave a total of $27,000 to Harris' campaigns, $15,000 to Anderson's and $12,300 to Hannemann's from 1996 to 2001.

Under state law a person or company can give no more than $4,000 for a mayoral race and $6,000 for a gubernatorial race during a four-year election period. The law treats an individual and any corporation in which the individual owns a controlling interest as one entity.

Leong, a vice president at Royal Contracting, said that he and others made the contributions because they were friends with the candidates, not because the firm sought business with the city.

"That's why it was all personal checks," he said. "We were quite surprised when the Campaign Spending Commission informed us that being officers of the company, they considered our donation as a reflection of the company. That was ignorance on our part, but that's no excuse."

He noted that the firm obtains its contracts with the city through competitive bidding. Royal Contracting has performed more than $38 million in city construction work since 1994.

State law bars donors from giving money under false names. Many of the contributions to Harris' campaign were made in the name of Leong and his relatives, and some were reimbursed by the company.

"That was my doing, and that's why I pleaded no contest to the charge of false-name donations," Leong said.

Royal Contracting's attorney, Mark Kawata, said the settlement with the commission concludes all issues involving campaign spending violations and Royal Contracting. He said that officers were not versed in the details of the law and figured "if everybody else is doing it, it must have been OK. But as it turned out, it's not."


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