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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, March 13, 2010

Council considers censure for Tam

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Rod Tam

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City Councilman Rod Tam could face his second censure vote in three years.

The city Ethics Commission last week found that Tam violated the city's standards of conduct by improperly using his discretionary fund to reimburse himself for meals he claimed were connected to council business. Tam agreed to pay $13,700 to settle the commission's claims against him, although he has stated repeatedly he did nothing wrong except make several "math errors."

Resolution 10-67, seeking Tam's censure, was introduced by Councilmen Charles Djou and will get its first airing at Wednesday's council meeting.

Djou has called for Tam to resign and urged his colleagues to join him the censure action.

"He abused his office and he did it in so many different areas and so many different times," Djou said yesterday.

The commission staff said it found at least $10,000 in questionable contingency account reimbursements from fiscal years 2006 through 2009.

"I think the City Council needs to clearly go on the record that Rod Tam's behavior is unacceptable and not to be tolerated in the council," Djou said. "I hope my colleagues on the City Council join me in making it very clear that Rod Tam stands alone on this behavior."

Tam yesterday said he didn't know how his colleagues will vote on the censure resolution, a verbal reprimand condemning his behavior.

The representative for the Downtown/Kalihi area said he wasn't surprised by the censure action, "because Charles Djou has been harping on it."

Tam was unanimously censured by the council in June 2008 for using the word "wetback," an ethnic slur referring to undocumented laborers.

Djou also introduced that censure resolution.

"The guy is angry and I don't understand why," Tam said.

Both men began on the council in January 2002 and term limits bar either from running for re-election. Both are seeking higher office. Djou is running for the U.S. House of Representatives while Tam is vying for the mayor's seat.

Tam said he will neither resign his office nor quit the mayor's race, although he did voluntarily step down as chairman of the council's Zoning Committee.

This is also not the first time Tam has been in trouble with the Ethics Commission.

In March 2003, he was cited for violating the City Charter by appearing on behalf of private interests, including one that paid him $3,100 to obtain permits from the city Department of Planning and Permitting.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported that the latest censure resolution was co-introduced by Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz.

Correction: A resolution last week censuring City Councilman Rod Tam was introduced by Councilman Charles Djou. A previous version of this story incorrectly reported it was introduced by two council members. Also from the same story, Djou and Tam both began on the council in January 2003.