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Tam’s spending unverified

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Former City Councilman Rod Tam and his campaign committee failed to verify nearly $1,300 in food and beverage campaign expenses, according to a state Campaign Spending Commission complaint under review by city prosecutors.

Campaign Spending complaint

A Campaign Spending Commission complaint sent to the city Prosecutor’s Office alleges that Rod Tam and his Ohana-O-Rod Tam committee violated state campaign spending laws. The complaint’s four counts:
» Failure to maintain receipts with sufficient detail to verify expenditures. Tam and the committee failed to verify $1,290.27 in food and beverage expenses on 50 occasions from Jan. 3, 2008, to Dec. 28, 2009. Amounts range from $4.35 to $146.70 at restaurants and stores such as Zippy’s and Costco.
» Impermissible use of campaign funds. Tam and the committee spent about $310 on seven occasions from February 2008 to January 2009 for personal or unpermitted expenses. Amounts ranged from $11.71 to $170.
» False report of an expenditure. Tam and the committee reported an $87.77 expenditure, including a $5 tip, for a meeting with a volunteer March 4, 2008, at Kabuki Restaurant on Kamehameha Highway. The restaurant owner could not find a receipt that matched the "guest receipt" stub submitted by Tam and the committee. Also, the manager said the receipt stub was not from Kabuki.
» Failure to report two contributions. Tam and the committee failed to report two contributions totaling $3,000 in 2009.

Tam and the committee also did not report $3,000 in donations, spent about $310 for noncampaign expenses and falsely reported that he spent $87 for a meal at a restaurant, the complaint said.

Tam, 56, whose Council term ended yesterday, held an elective position continuously since 1982 as a state legislator and councilman.

He said last week he will be looking for a job.

But Tam must appear in court Jan. 27 for his guilty pleas to misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor charges of theft and falsifying documents for overcharging the city for meals at Honolulu restaurants from 2007 to 2009.

He has filed a request asking that part-time Honolulu District Judge Randal Shintani defer accepting the guilty pleas, which would lead to the dismissal of the charges if he abides by conditions similar to probation for a year.

The campaign commission’s complaint deals with separate allegations that Tam and the committee violated state law regulating campaign funds.

Tam declined to go beyond his earlier remarks that he did not know what the commission’s concerns were. He also did not want to comment on his criminal case until after the sentencing hearing.

It is unclear when city prosecutors will complete their review.

The commission voted Dec. 15 to send the complaint to city prosecutors because of the "seriousness of the allegations," said Kristin Izumi-Nitao, the commission’s executive director.

Lynne Waters, spokeswoman for city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, said the office’s policy is not to discuss pending investigations because it would be premature and that it must abide by restrictions on pretrial publicity and similar issues.

The commission’s complaint outlines allegations that would be misdemeanors, each punishable by up to a year in jail. But the violations could be a felony if they were intended to deceive the commission.

A felony carries a prison term of up to five years and would disqualify the person from holding elective public office for four years, the complaint said.

The complaint said Tam and the committee failed to maintain receipts in sufficient detail to verify 50 food and beverage expenses ranging from $5.35 to $146.70 in 2008 at restaurants and retail outlets including Zippy’s, McDonald’s and Costco.

A separate allegation focused on Tam and the committee reporting an expense of $87.77 for a meal with a volunteer at Kabuki Restaurant in Waimalu in 2008.

Tam and the committee submitted a "Guest Receipt" stub for $82.77 and reported a "tip" of $5, but restaurant owner could not find a receipt matching the stub and the manager said the "guest receipt" stub did not come from the restaurant, the complaint said.

In Tam’s criminal case, Deputy Attorney General Lori Wada said last week she will oppose the former councilman’s request for the deferral of plea.

She said the deferral is usually reserved for "aberrant one-time behavior," but Tam repeated the wrongdoing over a number of years.

"I don’t believe that’s aberrant behavior," she said.

His actions, she said, were "a huge violation of public trust."

Wada said she will await a pre-sentence report but suspects she will be asking for jail time, although she was not sure at this point how much time.

Tam’s attorney, Nelson Goo, could not be reached for comment.

When Tam pleaded guilty in November to overcharging the city in amounts ranging from $8 to $267 for meals, he issued a statement admitting he submitted vouchers that were higher than the bill amounts. He said he should have "practiced better bookkeeping methods."

"I take full responsibility and deeply apologize for my mistakes," he said.

He said he was pleading guilty "pursuant to compromise."

Wada said after assessing the case and as part of the plea negotiation process, they agreed not to pursue felony charges if he pleaded guilty to the 26 misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor charges.

Tam said this will be the first time in 32 years, including his time on a neighborhood board, that he will not be holding an elective office.

"I’ll be in private life, that’s for sure," he said.

He said he will be spending time with his family, including caring for his parents, who both have heart conditions, and catching up with his kids, who are now young adults.

"Before you know it, my kids have grown up," he said.

He said he advises anyone in office to "make themselves available to their family."

Tam said he enjoyed public service but regrets not spending enough time with his family.

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