Harris donor
arrested for gifts

The former CEO of an isle firm
had given $80,250 to the mayor

Honolulu police arrested the former head of one of the state's largest engineering firms yesterday for allegedly making illegal political contributions to Mayor Jeremy Harris.

Larry Matsuo, former chief executive of Park Engineering, was booked at police headquarters on suspicion of money laundering and making political donations under a false name.

Matsuo was not charged and was released pending investigation.

He was not available for comment, and his lawyer Darwin Ching could not be reached.

Money laundering is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Making a political donation under a false name is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

In the past two years, more than 15 donors linked to major city contractors have been charged for alleged campaign donation violations. Several -- including SSFM International Inc. Chief Executive Officer Michael Matsumoto and Royal Contracting Co. Vice President and former Honolulu Police Commissioner Leonard Leong -- pleaded no contest to the charges.

Until recently, Matsuo headed Park Engineering, a local government contractor linked to more than $115,000 in political donations to Harris, former Gov. Ben Cayetano and ex-Maui Mayor James "Kimo" Apana.

A recent Star-Bulletin study found that Harris received $80,250 of the total while Cayetano netted $26,500. Apana received about $9,000 from people linked to the company.

The donations have attracted the attention of the state Campaign Spending Commission, which started investigating the firm in 2002.

Bob Watada, the commission's executive director, declined comment, saying only that his investigation is pending.

Under state law a donor can give no more than $4,000 to a mayoral candidate and $6,000 to a gubernatorial candidate during a four-year election cycle. Contributors also are barred from making political donations under false names.

Founded in 1958, Park Engineering is one of the state's largest engineering firms, receiving more than $5.5 million in nonbid consulting work from the city during the past eight years.

The city projects include a $1.5 million contract for sewer facilities in Kalihi Valley and a $300,000 engineering contract for the Ted Makalena Golf Course.


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