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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Mansho appeals for help

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser City Hall Writer

Former City Councilwoman Rene Mansho has e-mailed city employees and others in the community, asking them to send a letter of support to the judge who will sentence her on felony theft charges next month.

Rene Mansho is asking for references and descriptions of accomplishments.

Advertiser library photo

One Council member called the pitch "tacky," while city deputy prosecutor Kevin Takata said it is "an obvious and desperate attempt to avoid jail."

Mansho, 52, pleaded guilty last month to felony theft charges. She agreed to pay a $25,000 fine and faces as much as 10 years in prison when sentenced June 26-27.

Takata said Mansho has the right to seek support from anyone. However, he said, "If Mansho wanted to avoid jail, she should not have broken the law repeatedly over 10 years." He added, "this is too little, too late."

City Ethics Commission Executive Director Chuck Totto called the practice "questionable" and said he would need to look more closely at how many government workers received the "personal request" from Mansho.

In her e-mail, sent from a personal account, Mansho wrote: "While I am taking responsibility and am facing further legal consequences, I am in need of your support in preparation for my sentencing.

"Specifically, I need letters of support for the court to consider in determining my sentence. Letters are character reference, description of accomplishments, responsibilities and/or relationships with individuals or organizations, or any personal comments that could help in allowing me to continue serving in community service."

Mansho did not respond to a request to comment.

So far, The Advertiser has learned that employees in the following city departments had received the e-mail: fire department, community services, Council, culture and the arts and the mayor/managing director. Others in the community also have received them. It was not known how many people received it.

City Councilman Steve Holmes said Mansho has the same right as any citizen to send e-mail to city officials. But he questioned whether his former colleague's action was appropriate.

"It seems a little tacky on her part to be soliciting people to come out to affect the decision on sentencing," Holmes said.

Totto said it could be a violation for those who received the letter to take city time to respond and to send the request to others. "I'd be concerned about how many in total had been sent out," he said.

And Totto would remind those considering letters of support for Mansho that "her violation of the ethics laws were very serious." Mansho admitted that she misused city staff by ordering them to perform non-city work on taxpayer time "where it was clear that she knew she was misusing city funds," Totto said.

While it's clearly a personal choice for those who receive the request, Totto said, recipients "might want to be careful about weighing both sides and not just write a letter based on pity or sympathy for her."