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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Harris' top aides to testify

By Johnny Brannon and Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writers

City prosecutors looking into the political fund-raising practices of Mayor Jeremy Harris began issuing subpoenas yesterday for testimony before an investigative grand jury to be convened next month.

Mayor Jeremy Harris and his campaign have denied wrongdoings.

Advertiser library photo

Several city officials, including the heads of departments, were called as witnesses, but neither Harris nor officials from his campaign were subpoenaed, said the mayor's attorney, William McCorriston.

"They've been told that it's an investigative grand jury, that they're not the targets, and that there are no identified targets," he said.

McCorriston said he knew of less than a dozen subpoenas but declined to specify who the documents named. The heads of several key departments did not return calls yesterday, and prosecutors declined to comment.

McCorriston said investigative grand juries do not necessarily seek criminal indictments but can gather evidence to be presented at later proceedings.

Prosecutors began investigating the Harris campaign after the state Campaign Spending Commission found what it considered evidence that campaign officials hid the source of contributions to circumvent donation limits.

Much of the money Harris' campaign collected came from companies that have been awarded city contracts.

"The mayor is confident the investigation will find absolutely no evidence that there's been a contract granted in return for a contribution," McCorriston said. "Not possible, didn't happen."

Harris dropped out of the race for governor in May amid widespread publicity about the campaign probe, but he said last week that he did not intend to resign from office.

McCorriston complained that Harris and others had been smeared by the investigation and that it had dragged on for too long.

"If this is a sign that something is going to happen, then good," he said. "This has been proceeding at a snail's pace and has had negative consequences on a lot of people, and unfairly so. It has disrupted the lives of a lot of people, and it's unfortunate."

The Campaign Spending Commission in January levied its largest fine ever, $64,000, against an engineering company and city contractor called Geolabs for making excess contributions to Harris, Gov. Ben Cayetano and other Hawai'i politicians.

Company attorney Phillip Li said no officials from Geolabs or other companies he represents before the commission had been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury.

Chris Parsons, attorney for Harris' aborted campaign for governor, said neither the campaign itself nor any officials connected with it had been subpoenaed as far as he knew.

"I should be the one to get them if they came, but they haven't," he said. "They've already got basically every record the campaign has."

City Corporation Counsel David Arakawa did not return calls, and city spokeswoman Carol Costa declined to comment. Campaign Spending Commission director Robert Watada said he had not been subpoenaed or informed of subpoenas issued to others.

Reach Johnny Brannon at jbrannon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.