Harbin refuses gov,
Gov. Lingle's chief of staff says the
» Constituents want Harbin out
legislator lied by omission and now
doubts whether she can work effectively
State Rep. Bev Harbin has refused Gov. Linda Lingle's call for her to resign and said she did not disclose her criminal record because she did not think it would prove to be an embarrassment.
After Lingle appointed Harbin earlier this month to a state House seat, Harbin was the subject of news reports that she still owed the state $125,000 in back taxes and she had been convicted of passing bad checks in 1987.
In a 20-minute meeting with Harbin yesterday, Bob Awana, Lingle's chief of staff, said he lectured Harbin for not telling him about the unpaid taxes and criminal record. Speaking on behalf of the governor, Awana said he asked for Harbin's resignation, but she refused.
In an interview with the Star-Bulletin, Harbin said she was "disappointed that the governor bailed on me."
During the interview process to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Ken Hiraki (D, Kakaako-downtown), Harbin was asked by Awana if she had anything in her past that would prove embarrassing to Lingle or the state, Awana said.
"It is clear to me now Bev that your threshold for embarrassment and our threshold for embarrassment is significantly different," Awana said he told Harbin at yesterday's meeting.
"While I was disappointed then and told you then that had we known about the financial disclosures, we would not have appointed you. But Bev, when I read the morning newspaper (the Star-Bulletin yesterday revealed the previously undisclosed criminal convictions) this is completely, utterly unacceptable," Awana said he told Harbin.
"These are criminal charges that by omission you lied to us. I asked about things and you chose not to talk about it," Awana said.
In the Star-Bulletin interview, Harbin cited financial problems and an abusive marriage that caused her to make mistakes.
"In the 1980s, my world crumbled, my world is nothing but a life of experiences, mistakes and failures. Now I know I need to look at my past. I just didn't realize how a public life just digs into your whole sense of being.
"I made mistakes and I learned from them and I can bring a lot to the Legislature," Harbin said.
Asked why she didn't explain her criminal record, Harbin said she was told the governor would do a criminal history check and nothing was said about her conviction when she was interviewed.
"I don't think I lied by omission," Harbin said.
"I didn't choose to not talk about them, I did not believe this would be an embarrassment ... it was a dispute with a landlord and I was going through a divorce," Harbin said.
But while Harbin maintains she will be a contributing member of the Legislature and the Democratic majority, House Speaker Calvin Say is also urging her to step down.
"I hope the representative would consider what the governor stated to her," Say said.
Say also worried that Harbin will not be able to represent her district well, so he said he would ask Democrats in adjoining districts to survey constituents "to overcome any shortcoming she may have ... maybe representatives from other districts could support her," Say said.
Awana also said Harbin will not be able to function in the Legislature.
"The very people you are trying to help, you can no longer help because of the distractions. How do you think you can work effectively," Awana said he told Harbin.
Asked if he thought the entire fiasco would hurt Lingle, Awana said he couldn't tell, adding that "this is not the kind of situation we want to be in."
Awana said he asked the Sheriff's Office to check Harbin's criminal history and the deputy sheriff checked by putting both Harbin's present name and Social Security number into the criminal justice data center computer.
Awana acknowledged that if the deputy had checked under Harbin's former name, Endrizal, or just entered the Social Security number, the criminal background would have come up.
State Attorney General Mark Bennett said there is nothing the governor can do to remove Harbin from office because the state Constitution only allows the governor to fill a vacancy.
The Constitution does permit the Legislature to discipline members, or by a two-thirds vote, expel them for "misconduct, disorderly behavior or neglect of duty," but Bennett said he didn't know if the Legislature could act in this case.
That issue would have to be discussed by the entire state House, Say said.
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Harbin out of job
That's what some constituents are saying about their newly appointed state representative, Bev Harbin.
After a Star-Bulletin story revealed Harbin had a criminal record yesterday, constituents questioned how Harbin could be trusted, much less represent them.
Harbin also owes $125,000 in back taxes.
"Basically, I feel that she shouldn't hold public office if she has that kind of past," said downtown resident Chris Dilliner, 47. "It would affect her job."
Harbin has said she will not resign, drawing more criticism.
"How could she be so obstinate?" asked Melanie King, who also had some words for Gov. Linda Lingle and her administration. "What were they thinking?" King asked. "Why don't they check that out? My goodness, they put somebody in political office. Are they nuts?"
Lingle appointed Harbin on Sept. 16 to represent the Kakaako-Downtown district.
Harbin was arrested in 1987 and found guilty of passing bad checks. And she owes the state money from a failed business in the mid-1990s.
"She should definitely resign or get fired," said downtown constituent Kathy Myers, 46.
Gov. Linda Lingle asked Harbin to resign, but Harbin has refused to do so. And now she is coming under fire as well. One man pointed to Lingle's campaign promise of no more "old boys' network," saying she was practicing cronyism herself.
Mallory Follmer, 18, who supports Harbin's resignation, said a more thorough background check should have been done, and questioned what kind of legislation she might propose if she remains in office.
The bottom line: It sends the wrong kind of message to the people," said resident Linton Lee.