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Campaign misdeeds will cost Berg $250, commission rules

The city councilman avoids a more severe penalty from charges levied by a former member of his staff

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

LAST UPDATED: 05:12 p.m. HST, Nov 02, 2012

Honolulu City Councilman Tom Berg was slapped with $250 in additional fines by the state Campaign Spending Commission on Thursday for failing to report campaign contributions and the purchase of a voter list when he first ran for office in 2010.

But the commission also voted to dismiss a more serious charge that Berg used his Council staff to conduct campaign activities during taxpayer hours, a charge that could have forced him to repay the city more than $28,000.

Commission members voted 3-0 to sustain charges that his campaign committee:

» Failed to report four contributions totaling $325.

» Failed to disclose the purchase of a voter email address list for $378.89.

The commission fined Berg $125 for each violation after Berg declared he is "broke." Commission staff attorney Gary K.H. Kam had recommended that Berg be fined $250 for each violation.

Berg blamed the errors on former chief of staff and campaign supporter Eric Ryan, who brought the complaint against his former boss.

Berg said Ryan is "in cahoots" with state Rep. Kymberly Pine, who is challenging Berg's re-election bid in Tuesday's election.

The commission also voted 3-0 to dismiss Ryan's charge that Berg forced him and other Council staffers to do campaign work on city time. Ryan estimated the cost of his own "in-kind" contribution to politicking at about $28,646 during his time working for Berg at taxpayers' expense.

In a written recommendation to the commission last month, Kam had preliminarily advised the commission to require Berg reimburse the city $28,646 and also be fined the maximum $2,000.

Kam said he changed his recommendation to a dismissal after Berg produced documents indicating he was diligent in making sure his staff did not conduct campaign work on city time. When he found out a member of his staff had spent city time working on campaign issues, Berg took immediate action, Kam said.

Berg told reporters after the meeting that Ryan "concocted and fabricated" charges against him after he fired him. Berg said it was Ryan who bought the voter list and controlled the account the four contributions were placed in.

"Everything that I've been fined for has gone through Eric Ryan's fingers," Berg said.

Ryan, reached in Los Angeles, said the commission rushed the meeting at Berg's request and did not review all of the evidence he submitted.

"In the end, the decision was based completely on cherry-picked evidence by Berg that doesn't even mean what it says," Ryan said, insisting that it was Berg who directed him and other staffers to conduct campaign activity on city time.

Five current and former Berg staffers told the commission that Berg told them specifically to not hold campaign activity on city time. Ryan also said Berg filed his own campaign spending reports.

Last month the commission fined Berg $250 for accepting 24 T-shirts without reporting them.

Ryan laughed when told Berg accused him of collaborating with Pine. "Baloney," he said. "I can't stand either of them."

Ryan, who once helped Pine with her campaign, has had his own legal entanglements with her. Pine said she has a restraining order against Ryan.

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what wrote:
Berg is very passionate about exposing waste and corruption in Honolulu and in fighting for all the people of Honolulu. That has made him many enemies among the council insiders. If you dig deep enough, if you spend enough time, if you review and analyze enough records, you can probably find dirt on anybody. That may be all this is.
on November 2,2012 | 01:53AM
MalamaKaAina wrote:
Was Councilman Nestor Garcia working a paid job for rail construction/developer interest when Nestor voted to keep rail alive?
on November 2,2012 | 02:34AM
Truther wrote:
It's all about BIG RAIL MONEY and Berg isn't taking any of it like the other Council persons so since they are on the take they have to shut him up or their checks will stop coming in.
on November 2,2012 | 09:24AM
allie wrote:
very true..politics is especially dirty out here but it is all over the country to one extent or another
on November 2,2012 | 10:16AM
turbolink wrote:
Yet another blinding flash of the obvious.
on November 2,2012 | 06:50PM
Kapakahi wrote:

I know you WANT to believe Tom Berg opposes corruption. But it's not true. Look at how much of his office budget went to produce "Team Berg" t-shirts and other paraphernalia, which was CLEARLY campaign paraphernalia, as it serves no legitimate function attached to Berg's duties as councilmember. AAnd, in fact, his employees WORE the shirts during campaign activities. In addition, Berg fired one of his city staffers for not advancing his agenda well-enough during her offhours, while serving on a neighborhood board! There is no question Berg was requiring his staffers to serve as his campaign workers, whether it happened during their official office hours or during their "private" time. It was a condition of employment.

While it is common for politicians to hire supporters and to expect their employees to also campaign for them, Berg was much more blatant about it than most. And the mis-use of Team Berg materials was shocking. Is that manini compared to the corrupting influence of the Rail money on the council and the mayoral race? Is it manini compared with Nestor Garcia's conflict of interest or that of Apo before him? Yes.

But it is foolish for Berg supporters to blind themselves to his VERY real faults, including his abuse of city resources, his violation of campaign spending laws by helping set up dummy "independent" campaigns and his eagerness to "fire" anyone who disagrees with him, whether it is his staff, HPD officers or a Secret Service agent. The man is a very flawed, very twisted individual. You deserve better. And Kym Pine is NOT better.

on November 2,2012 | 12:45PM
Truther wrote:
I agree with the last sentence only.Kym Pine is NOT better.

Pine is the poster girl for lying, deceit and incompetence.

on November 2,2012 | 01:20PM
false wrote:
You might only LIKE my last sentence. But everything I wrote can be backed up with evidence. Politics is full of very flawed people. I can understand a sane person CONSIDERING running for office. But why would you subject your family to it? Why would you be willing to give up your personal privacy?

OK, that was an overstatement. SOME politicians, and I include members of both parties, are sane, balanced personalities. But far too many are warped and needy. And those who do not start off that way are subject to very odd, very unhealthy pressures and inducements. It is hard to remain grounded.

Tom Berg is an extreme example of a maladjusted person seeking prestige and meaning through elective office. He is locked into an oppositional mode, which reinforces the tendencies already too strong in the extremes of both parties to regard those you disagree with as evil, corrupt or idiotic.

And because Tome thinks the "other side" engages in massive corruption, he thinks it is realistic for him to engage in widespread PETTY corruption, like his abuse of his staff for campaign purposes and misappropriation of office funds for campaign purposes.

And every Berg supporter who badmouths Eric Ryan should slow down long enough to ask themselves why Tom Berg (and Kym Pine) hired Eric Ryan in the first place? Eric has LONG been known to be untrustworthy, to turn on his former employer and betray their secrets? When Berg and Pine colluded with Eric to set up those dummy "community organizations" to attack their political opponents, NO ONE can think that was innocent. It was wittingly illegal and unethical.

So your champion against the Rail (a lousy project) and (for others) against GMOs, is an unstable, rude, scoundrel. I think voters in the district should vote for him over Pine. But with their eyes open. And stop pretending you don't know how screwed up he is. Everyone else can see it, regardless of our position on Rail or GMOs.

on November 2,2012 | 01:41PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
In other news, holding a secret $5,000/month secretary job for rail construction and developer interests while "forgetting" to mention it while being the swing vote that kept rail alive is still okay for Councilman Nestor Garcia. But by all means, lets vilify Councilman Berg over some old tee shirts.

on November 2,2012 | 02:00AM
soundofreason wrote:
Exactly and UNbelievable. The mere fact that can happen AND be IGNORED tells me we have bigger problems than Berg's t-shirts. MUCH bigger problems......that have grown legs.
on November 2,2012 | 06:50AM
Truther wrote:
Everyone claims they're tried of sleazy corrupt politicians like PINE, but when a good one comes around like Tom Berg they get vilified for fighting City Hall. Berg challenges the status quo and the old stale cronyism from the past and it scares the good ole boys out of their minds. We need more Tom Bergs and less Nestors, Harimotos and Changs in Hawaii
on November 2,2012 | 09:26AM
shoogz wrote:
Watch out...more pro-rail Councilmembers are on the horizon in this election.... http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2012/11/01/17515-honolulu-city-council-campaigns-bolstered-by-union-and-pac-money/
on November 2,2012 | 03:47AM
wondermn1 wrote:
Go Berg Go at least the commission saw the true witch Hunt that has occurred and we hope Tom berg has a legal right to sue PRP as well as Eric Ryan the snake in the grass. any body who has followed the proceding from start to finish will vote for Tom Berg. Go Tom Go
on November 2,2012 | 07:18AM
Imagen wrote:
By virtue of Berg's re-election, you will send Pine back-packing to PRP and White, etal. She can be their new spokesperson, being that she is much better on the eyes...true definition of eye candy, albeit, I find nothing attractive about her.
on November 2,2012 | 10:35AM
Truther wrote:
on November 2,2012 | 01:20PM
wiliki wrote:
Berg is the worse politician in town and everybody knows that....
on November 2,2012 | 06:35AM
Bdpapa wrote:
I gotta agree. His "no rules apply to me" approach is too indicative of the "entitled" or "me" generation. He seems passionate but I get the impression he is self serving. In other words, he wants his way and loves the attention.
on November 2,2012 | 06:45AM
Larry01 wrote:
No argument here.
on November 2,2012 | 08:26AM
wondermn1 wrote:
Actually Tom Berg is the only one on the City Council that has the Guts to stop the WASTE OF OUR TAX DOLLARS. the reason for the Witch Hunt that PRP, Eric Ryan have is that Mr. Berg will not rubber stamp bad ideas and does not accept little brown envelopes of LUV like other members and some of those running probably do. THE RAIL IS THE BIGGEST BOONDOGGLE TO HAVE EVER HIT HONOLULU and Berg has been fighting to save you and I the TAX PAYER tons of money. Go Tom Berg Go.
on November 2,2012 | 07:16AM
wiliki wrote:
Berg doesn't work with the others. He needs to change their minds and not shout at them. Problem he has only opinions and facts.
on November 2,2012 | 09:03PM
loquaciousone wrote:
I can think of a few that makes him look kinda manini like Nestor the Rat Garcia, Rod free lunch Tam, Pete I never met a vacation I didn't like Carlisle, Mufi my way or the highway Hanneman, Ron I forgot my eyes Menor, Jon I didn't see the parked car Yoshimura, and the list goes on and on and on.....
on November 2,2012 | 08:11AM
Truther wrote:
Yet the Council's most honest and dedicated member is constantly harassed and vilified by the corrupt ones - call 911, call 911, help we're being threatened, the sky is falling and my rail payoff check is late this month.
on November 2,2012 | 09:29AM
wiliki wrote:
Berg is NOT the one being harassed....
on November 2,2012 | 09:05PM
allie wrote:
well put
on November 2,2012 | 10:17AM
Grimbold wrote:
Small errors in bookkeeping - this is not a real violation.
on November 2,2012 | 07:10AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
on November 2,2012 | 08:34AM
AmbienDaze wrote:
hahaha. it's been awhile since i last saw that used. thank you.
on November 2,2012 | 01:41PM
McCully wrote:
Some council members can't stand Berg cause he exposes all the BS that goes on behind closed doors. He's the type of person that the council needs to keep them in check.
on November 2,2012 | 07:24AM
Larry01 wrote:
And others can't stand him because he's a hothead loudmouth.
on November 2,2012 | 08:25AM
Truther wrote:
Call 911, call 911, help we're being threatened by a loud voice, the sky is falling and my rail payoff check is late this month.
on November 2,2012 | 01:25PM
Malani wrote:
But he does his job. Nestor Garcia is an example of Quite is not always effective. With Tom we are told whats going on.
on November 2,2012 | 04:16PM
Truther wrote:
Tom is not afraid to speak out. I am proud that we have such a councilman. We need more councilmen with backbones to make our government run effectively. Tom, no ka oi.
on November 2,2012 | 09:25AM
allie wrote:
Trtue..but anyone who goes up against the power boys will be punished. That is the way it is out here
on November 2,2012 | 10:17AM
Truther wrote:
Well let's change that for once. Vote for Berg.
on November 2,2012 | 01:21PM
Kaleo744 wrote:
BERG,win or lose I know he will continue to fight for the people,and you know what all those who says how bad he is, dont know the guy and let me tell you this, he'll fight for you too just because...so take those ridiculous comments you have about Mr. Berg and stick it...
on November 2,2012 | 09:06AM
CouchPotato wrote:
on November 2,2012 | 12:09PM
maunawili1 wrote:
I thinkthe story is in error. Commisison did not reduce the fine because Brg said he was broke. They did it because they saw what a dirty lying SOB Ryan is and that Berg got set up by the snake.
on November 2,2012 | 10:08AM
serious wrote:
If the politicians would wear long sleaved outfits like the NASCAR racers so we could tell who their sponsors were, the world would be a safer place. Right or wrong, I like Berg in telling it the way he sees it--that's the reason we elect representatives. Now, Mazie--what has she done?
on November 2,2012 | 12:24PM
Truther wrote:
I like this idea; the bigger the payoff, the bigger the payoff logo they have to wear. Talk about full disclosure.
on November 2,2012 | 01:23PM
Kapakahi wrote:
My reply got "Flagged," so let me try again.

You may not WANT to agree with the rest of my post. But every statement I made there can be backed up with evidence. Tom Berg is a very messed up individual. A lot of people get involved in politics for a lot of reasons. A sane person may very well consider running for office because he/she thinks they are at a place in their life where they can "give back to the community" and are interested in policy, politics or both. But you give up a heckuva lot in exchange. And so does your family. I prefer having a private life and to walk along the street unnoticed.

But a lot of politicians either start off motivated by unhealthy impulses or they get twisted in the process. Not everyone in politics is healthy, whether from your party or mine. Tom is a particularly extreme. I am sure he believes he is a white knight fighting against evil and corrupt forces. But some people, convinced "the other side" are much worse, will justify their own corruption as necessary to the job. And so the slippery slope begins to move under one's feet.

Those of you you like Berg should take time to reflect upon the fact he CHOSE to hire Eric Ryan, first for his campaign, then as chief of staff. Eric had a well-established reputation as a dirty fighter, but also as someone with a history of turning on his employers and "blowing the whistle" on them for misdeeds. Misdeeds which Eric was a willing participant in. Both Berg and Pine hired Eric, knowing full well what kind of person he was. And they got bit by their own mad dog when he --SURPRISE--turned on them. But they are not innocent! When they directed him to set up those dummy community organizations to attack their political opponents, they knew they were violating campaign spending laws. And they knew they were being unethical.

on November 2,2012 | 02:00PM
false wrote:

I get that Tom is "fearless" in opposing the lousy Train project. For others, he is also "fearless" in opposing GMOs, an issue few anti-railers care about. (In fact, most Republicans tend to dismiss concerns over GE food.) But just because you are stuck with Tom as your champion on the council, should not cause you to close your eyes to his ethical lapses, his rudeness and his other defects. You deserve a better "champion." The residents of Council District 1 deserve a better councilmember. Unfortunately, Pine is NOT that person.

But if politicians can be "corrupt," so can their supporters. And those who make excuses for Tom or who shut their eyes to his defects are not only "enablers." They are also "corrupt," but as voters.

on November 2,2012 | 02:01PM
Malani wrote:
Ryan, reached in Los Angeles, said the commission rushed the meeting at Berg's request and did not review all of the evidence he submitted. WHAT? They are out to get him Ryan and you can be sure they read everything in front of their faces.
on November 2,2012 | 04:21PM
oxtail01 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on November 2,2012 | 07:24PM
Bdpapa wrote:
I see it that way too! Amen!
on November 2,2012 | 08:23PM
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