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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 18, 2002

Mansho could face jail

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

City prosecutors yesterday said they will seek a maximum 10-year prison term for former City Councilwoman Rene Mansho if she is convicted of felony charges that she stole money from the city and her campaign.

Rene Mansho is charged with first-degree theft.
The prosecutors filed a complaint charging Mansho with one count of first-degree theft, which carries a maximum 10-year prison term and another count of second-degree theft, which carries a five-year maximum sentence.

"A slap on the wrist, I think, is something which sends a bad message to the public because we're dealing with taxpayer's money," city deputy prosecutor Randal Lee said about seeking a maximum sentence.

The two-page complaint did not provide details of the allegations against Mansho. But the charges are related to the use of her staff for work unrelated to her office and for the misuse of campaign money, Lee said.

Lee said the complaint was filed after his office and Mansho's attorney reached a plea agreement. He would not offer details of that deal.

James Koshiba, Mansho's attorney, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mansho, 52, said she could not comment on the complaint or a plea agreement she reached with prosecutors. Mansho did say that she is continuing to work in her community.

"I'm pretty busy. I'm trying to lead as much of a normal life as possible," she said. "I've been blessed with having so many wonderful friends standing by me. It's rough."

The first-degree theft charge accuses her of taking by "deception" at least $20,000 in city money between April 1, 1989, and Dec. 31, 2000. The second charge alleges that Mansho illegally used more than $300 in campaign money from Jan. 1, 1994, to Aug. 31, 2000.

Mansho is scheduled to make a court appearance and enter a plea to the charges next week.

In addition to the prison term, Mansho faces fines of up to $20,000, restitution and community service, Lee said.

"Given the nature of the offense as well as the breach of the public's trust, we will be asking for incarceration in this matter," Lee said. "We will be asking for the full term."

Mansho resigned from office April 10, the day an O'ahu grand jury was scheduled to hear evidence on alleged theft and forgery committed by her. Two days later, Mansho turned herself in at the Wahiawa police substation in connection with the investigation.

Lee yesterday would not say if Mansho's resignation was part of the plea agreement. Mansho said last week that she resigned to "resolve personal problems."

Mansho, a former public school teacher and administrator, was first elected to represent the Mililani-Waipi'o-North Shore district in 1988.

Mansho's problems began in 2000 when the city Ethics Commission questioned her use of an electric car from Global Electric Motocars for a token amount. She eventually purchased the vehicle.

In March 2001, Mansho was fined $40,000 by the state Campaign Spending Commission for misusing campaign money. She was accused of using more than $48,000 for personal expenses, such as travel, football season tickets and Christmas parties.

That same month, Mansho reached a settlement with the city Ethics Commission and paid $40,000 in fines for using her council staff for work unrelated to her office. The commission said Mansho used her staff to manage her campaign finances and to participate in Aloha Boat Days, a program that welcomes cruise ships to Honolulu Harbor with live music and flowers.

Mansho is eligible to receive a government pension based on more than 30 years of government service, first as a schoolteacher, then as a City Council member: that is likely to range between $28,500 and $33,800 a year.

The Advertiser calculated that range based on an average salary of her three highest-earning years on the City Council and 17 years spent as a teacher and vice principal. However, if Mansho applies to receive her pension now — more than two years before she reaches age 55 — she could collect less money in conjunction with her teaching years.

Mansho has declined to comment on when she plans to formally retire.

Yesterday, news that the city prosecutor is seeking prison time for Mansho spread through City Hall.

City Council Chairman John DeSoto said he was surprised to hear that his former colleague might have to serve time.

"Let that be a message to all those running for office," DeSoto said. "You need to serve your people and not yourself."

Advertiser staff writer Robbie Dingeman contributed to this report.