By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
Newly appointed state Rep. Beverly Harbin insisted she will not resign, despite calls from the Democratic Party to do so and Gov. Linda Lingle's statement that she won't appoint someone like Harbin to office again.
"I ain't going away," Harbin said yesterday. "I have absolutely no intention of resigning."
Harbin was sworn into office Monday after Lingle selected her over the weekend to replace state Rep. Ken Hiraki, D-28th (Iwilei, Downtown, Makiki), who resigned.
Then came news that Harbin, her husband and a car repair company they used to own owe $124,700 in back state taxes. The company and the Harbins also owe some $100,000 in court judgments.
Harbin didn't disclose her business problems to Lingle and yesterday the governor said prospective appointees likely will be asked in the future to voluntarily share their tax information.
The governor said Harbin, like other potential appointees, was asked whether she had anything in her background that might embarrass the administration, but Harbin did not disclose her tax debts.
"I was first surprised and second disappointed," Lingle said of learning about Harbin's tax troubles.
Lingle would not say whether Harbin should resign. Her chief of staff, Bob Awana, said Tuesday that Harbin would not have been appointed had the administration known of her tax debts.
The governor did say she hoped Harbin would use the opportunity as a legislator over the next year to be an advocate for small business, which was one of the reasons why the governor appointed her.
"She now has a chance to show that she has something positive to bring," Lingle said.
Hawai'i Democratic Party spokesman Tom Brower said yesterday that Lingle should ask Harbin to resign.
Brower also accused the governor of "blatant political maneuvering" in selecting Harbin for the vacancy instead of four other candidates proposed for the post by the Democrats.
Calling Harbin a "Democrat in name only," the party said in a news release that Harbin became a member of the party three days after Hiraki announced his intention to resign, and also changed her voter registration from the Big Island to Hiraki's district in late July.
Harbin said she has lived in the 28th District for a year and didn't receive her Democratic Party membership card until July 18 because the party purposely held up issuing it for a month. Brower did not directly respond to that charge, but said while Harbin meets the legal requirements for appointment to the office, there were better-qualified candidates available.
Harbin said some party officials oppose her because she has been a vocal proponent of more legislative attention to the economic problems faced by small businesses in Hawai'i.
"Those are issues that the Democratic Party has chosen to elude and evade for the last 40 years," Harbin said.
The state economic downturn in the late 1990s contributed to the financial difficulties of the Harbins' Hon/Hawaii car repair business, she said.
Federal court records show that when Harbin faced similar financial problems in 1991, she filed for personal bankruptcy. But she said she is paying off her current debts and has not filed for protection under federal bankruptcy laws.
Her husband, Earl Harbin, filed personal bankruptcy here in 2001, reporting debts of nearly $500,000 and assets of $192,000. He listed his wife as co-debtor on several outstanding financial obligations in that case.
State business records also show that Harbin and her husband from a previous marriage had numerous state and federal tax liens filed against them in the 1980s totaling some $55,000.
Harbin said she believed those liens were satisfied as a result of her divorce settlement with her former husband.Advertiser staff writer Derrick DePledge contributed to this report. Reach Jim Dooley at 535-2447 or jdooley@honolulu advertiser.com.
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