Judge issues fines
in donation scandal

Two engineers must also make
apologies for illegal contributions

A state judge fined two local engineers $4,000 each and ordered them to write a letter of public apology after they pleaded no contest yesterday to charges of making illegal political contributions to Mayor Jeremy Harris' campaign.

District Judge Leslie Hayashi also granted Rudy Mina, president of M&E Pacific Inc., and retired M&E Vice President Edward Harada a deferral of their no-contest pleas. The deferral gives Mina and Harada the opportunity to have their criminal cases dismissed if they stay out of trouble for a year.

Mina, 51, and Harada, 72, apologized to the court and their families, and said that they deeply regretted their actions, which they described as a "mistake of judgment."

Under Hayashi's sentence, Harada and Mina must submit apology letters to the two local daily newspapers -- the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the Honolulu Advertiser -- as letters to the editor.

The papers can choose whether to run the letters, but the engineers must demonstrate to the court that the letters were written and submitted, the judge said.

Hayashi said she understands that individuals can find themselves in "ethical dilemmas" of serving the interests of their companies or following the law. But, as in the Enron scandal and the Martha Stewart case, fraud "is a grave matter," the judge said.

Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Bainbridge opposed the granting of a deferral, saying the engineers' actions undermined the electoral process.

In separate penal summons filed Nov. 1, prosecutors alleged that Mina and Harada made excessive political donations to the Harris campaign and gave money under false names.

The complaint did not specify the amount of the illegal contributions, but a separate investigation by the state Campaign Spending Commission found that people linked to the M&E gave more than $36,000 to the Harris campaign.

The commission, whose investigation is pending, also found that M&E employees and their friends and relatives gave more than $15,000 to former Gov. Ben Cayetano's campaign, $26,500 to ex-Honolulu City Councilman Arnold Morgado's campaign and $22,300 to former Maui Mayor James "Kimo" Apana's campaign.

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

Founded in 1959, M&E is one of the state's largest engineering firms. According to city records, the firm has received more than $15 million in nonbid city work. Harris campaign officials have denied any connection between political contributions and the awarding of city contracts.

In a related matter, city prosecutors issued subpoenas for a Dec. 21 hearing before an Oahu grand jury. According to one subpoena recipient, the secret panel is targeting a former employee of Kober Hanssen Mitchell Architects.

Earlier this month, Circuit Judge Richard Perkins fined Kober Hanssen's chief executive, Kurt Mitchell, $1,000 and ordered him to do 50 hours of community service for making illegal political donations to the Harris campaign.

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