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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, September 17, 2006

Acting fire chief objects to Case ad

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

The acting chief of the Ho-nolulu Fire Department has asked U.S. Rep. Ed Case's Senate campaign to remove images of a fire captain who appears in uniform in the congressman's latest television advertisement.

Acting fire chief Wayne Nojiri informed the Case campaign in a letter Friday that it is against department policy for firefighters to use their uniform, badge or the department's prestige to help political candidates.

Case said yesterday his campaign would edit the fire captain out of the ad but said he has no doubt that the letter was politically motivated. The Hawai'i Fire Fighters Association Local 1463, which represents 2,600 active and retired firefighters statewide, has endorsed U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka over Case in Saturday's primary.

"A good firefighter has become entangled in petty politics," Case said. "And make no mistake, this is about politics and nothing else."

Elisa Yadao, a spokeswoman for the Akaka campaign, said yesterday the campaign had nothing to do with the letter.

Capt. Gerald Komine, whose wife works at United Airlines with Case's wife, Audrey, appears briefly in the ad as Case greeted people at the Okinawan Festival at Kapi'olani Park earlier this month. The fire captain does not officially endorse Case in the ad.

Nojiri's letter said Komine was unaware he was going to be in the ad and had also contacted the Case campaign about being removed. "We request that you honor Captain Komine's request to be removed from this particular campaign ad and refrain from using HFD personnel in future political campaign advertisements," Nojiri wrote.

The 30-second spot deals with Case's campaign themes of change and leadership transition and is scheduled to run over the next several days.

Case said the ad was shot in a public place and shows him interacting with different people. He said there was nothing improper about the footage, but he will remove the images of the fire captain because he does not want him in any way harmed by the ad.

The congressman said he believes Akaka's supporters likely pressured the Fire Department. Nojiri's letter says the fire captain's appearance in the ad "was brought to our attention" and that the captain was notified of the potential violation of department policy. A Fire Department spokesman could not be reached yesterday for further comment.

"This is petty machine politics at its worst," Case said. "And I don't want him (Komine) to have to deal with it. He's a good person and a good firefighter. And whether I think it's right or wrong, it's not worth it, and we're going to change the ad tomorrow and put it up again with somebody else."

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.