Former Mayor Jeremy Harris signs copies of "The Renaissance of Honolulu" at the Kahala Barnes & Noble.

Harris book’s cost
under investigation

Two city agencies are studying
whether taxpayers' money
was used improperly

Two city agencies are pursuing separate investigations into whether there were violations of the procurement, ethics or possibly criminal laws in using taxpayers' money to print former Mayor Jeremy Harris' book, "The Renaissance of Honolulu."

City & County of Honolulu The Corporation Counsel's Office and the Ethics Commission are conducting probes. A resolution moving through the City Council authorizes the Budget Committee to conduct a formal inquiry into whether it was appropriate to use city money to publish the book.

"I think we owe it to the public to find out exactly how much was spent," said Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi. "I think also because it's a matter of accountability, because we want to see if there's any misuse of funds, their money, so we can bring it to a close."

The Corporation Counsel's Office began its investigation last week after Councilman Charles Djou sent a letter asking Corporation Counsel Carrie Okinaga to investigate the procurement details of the book and also pursue any legal remedies to recover funds if there was an "illegal" expenditure.

Djou's request is based on a Dec. 24 Star-Bulletin story that detailed how the book actually cost at least $20,000 more to produce than the $75,000 figure quoted by former Managing Director Ben Lee.

Djou's request also used a Dec. 29 letter he received from Lee that said that the paper, printing, design, layout, graphics, typeset and photographic work cost the city more than $108,000.

Djou said that even though the Harris administration is no longer in office, he believes the investigations are still worth pursuing, for a couple of reasons.

"One is to recover any funds if taxpayer moneys were improperly used. The taxpayer should be made whole," he said. "The more important reason to investigate this is to show the public we take ethics seriously."

Deputy Corporation Counsel Duane Pang told the Budget Committee that he was assigned to investigate the case to avoid conflicts, since he was not involved in the previous procurement decisions.

"If there's violations of the procurement law, there are civil and criminal penalties. And if there were violations, we would be discussing it directly with you and the Council members to see whether we should go forward," Pang said. "We don't investigate other departments, but based on the request, we took it upon ourselves to do it, I believe."

Chuck Totto, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said the commission has received three requests to investigate the matter, and plans to pursue those requests.

The commission could determine whether ethics regulations or even criminal laws were broken, but the remedies might be few, with members of the previous administration already out of office.

Totto said some of the areas his office could look into are whether spending on the book was for a legitimate public purpose and whether anyone benefited personally from it.

The Budget Committee approved the resolution, which is now headed to the Council for final approval.

City & County of Honolulu

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