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Former Councilman Rod Tam fined for misuse of city funds

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 2:28 p.m. HST, Nov 14, 2012

The city Ethics Commission fined former City Councilman Rod Tam $813.53 today for misusing city funds to buy city employees appreciation lunches and for a Chinese dinner for foreign delegates.

The cases date back to 2009 and 2010, but hearings had been delayed while Tam faced criminal prosecution and sentencing for previous misuse of city funds.

In a news release, the Ethics Commission said Tam was unable to present any credible evidence that the expenses were related to his Council work or any legitimate city business.

The Commission said Tam used city funds in the amount $585.93 for bentos, chips, sandwiches and Chinese takeout to buy "appreciation lunches" for city employees, after first saying the meals were for workers setting up holiday decorations at Honolulu Hale.

Reimbursement he received for $227.60 was for dinner at Empress Restaurant for foreign delegates to "formulate international diplomatic relations," the Commission said.

"But, he was also unable to present any credible evidence of subsequent actions on his part or by the Chinese delegation which would have corroborated his assertion that the dinner was in fact for the purpose of establishing a sister City relationship," the Commission said.

Tam was sentenced Nov. 1, 2011, to two days in jail and 300 hours of community service after pleading guilty in June of that year to 26 misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor counts of theft and falsifying documents.

The charges were related to overcharging the city $8 to $267 for meals at Honolulu restaurants from 2007 to 2009.

Tam pleaded no contest to eight misdemeanor counts of violating campaign spending laws by falsely claiming he had a meal with a volunteer at a restaurant, failing to report two campaign contributions, misusing campaign funds and failing to maintain receipts to verify expenses.

In March 2010, the Ethics Commission had fined Tam $2,000 and ordered him to pay $11,700 in restitution for using city funds to buy "hundreds" of meals totaling more than $22,000 unrelated to his city work.

Tam, who had served 32 years in elected office, has been out of office since 2010, when he unsuccessfully ran for mayor. He was unable to seek re-election to the City Council because of term limits.

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