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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Mirikitani earns spot in state hall of shame

As falls from grace go, Andy Mirikitani's has been steep, deep and surprisingly well-orchestrated.

The culmination came with the July 3 finding of guilt against Mirikitani on charges of theft, bribery, extortion, wire fraud and witness tampering. He is thought to be the highest-ranking Hawai'i public official to be found guilty of a federal crime.

These crimes were all the more offensive because they were committed in the exercise of Mirikitani's public duties. That means they were offenses against the taxpayers and his constituents, not private failures.

Next, in a breathtaking expression of civic thoughtlessness, Mirikitani refused to resign his City Council seat, relying on a legal loophole. Although state law (not to mention the crudest sense of honor) requires an incumbent to step down at the time he or she becomes a convicted felon, that "becoming" occurs, not when one is found guilty by judge or jury, but upon sentencing.

As a matter of normal procedure, the judge in Mirikitani's case didn't sentence him immediately, but set sentencing for yesterday. Now sentencing has been postponed until tomorrow.

Judging from the amount of legislating Mirikitani accomplished in his last five months in office, we might surmise that he remained on board, not out of any sense of public spiritedness, but simply to collect his paycheck.

That suspicion is reinforced by his actions at the end of last week in which he married the codefendant in his bribery case. One might have thought it rather gallant of Mirikitani to make a marriage partner of his partner in crime, if he had been content to file a wedding certificate and leave it at that.

But the same day, he showed up in the council administrative offices, filing paperwork to add Sharon Bynum as his spouse, making her eligible for lifetime medical and dental benefits.

That adds insult to injury for the taxpayers, who are left with an obligation of many thousands of dollars in exchange for absolutely nothing.

There was nothing illegal about Mirikitani's decision to hang on to his council seat nor was it illegal to add his partner to his lifetime health benefits. But just because it was legal does not make it right.

One might say it was particularly surprising to see Mirikitani take this wrongheaded course. Over his career, he put himself forward as a strong voice for community morality and has performed useful service on this front.

We will be surprised if this fallen public servant doesn't face a significant amount of time in federal prison, although the sentence might reasonably be postponed if the judge finds there are sound grounds to file an appeal.

But in the commission of his crimes, his refusal to resign upon being found guilty, and now his marriage of convenience, Mirikitani has treated his constituents and his responsibilities with contempt.