comscore 2011 conviction for theft dogs Tam in Senate race | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Hawaii News

2011 conviction for theft dogs Tam in Senate race

Honolulu Star-Advertiser logo
Unlimited access to premium stories for as low as $12.95 /mo.
Get It Now

    Karl Rhodes and Rod Tam.

Former Honolulu city Councilman Rod Tam says voters should move past his 2011 conviction for stealing city funds and violating campaign spending laws as he fights for the open Senate seat representing downtown Honolulu, Nuuanu, Iwilei and Liliha.

Tam spent two days in jail and was ordered by the City Ethics Commission to repay the city $13,700 for using city funds to cover hundreds of meals at places like Zippy’s that were unrelated to his duties as a councilman.

“It was plus and minuses. There was no intention of taking any money,” Tam told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in regard to his impugned accounting records that became the subject of legal scrutiny. “I had mathematical errors, I admit.”

(Tam pleaded guilty to 26 misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor counts of theft and falsifying documents.)

Asked what he would like to tell voters who may still be concerned about the charges, he said: “I love my community. I want to serve and I am dedicated to public service.”

Tam, who is working to relaunch his political career as a Republican, faces a tough race against Democratic challenger Rep. Karl Rhoads for the seat being vacated by longtime Democratic Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland.

Rhoads, an attorney, has been a member of the House of Representatives representing Chinatown, Iwilei and Kalihi for a decade and served as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee since 2013.

Rhoads had raised $126,490 for his campaign as of Oct. 24, compared with Tam’s $5,769, according to campaign spending records.

Tam has had a long and colorful political history, serving as a Democrat in the state House from 1982 to 1994 and the state Senate from 1994 to 2002. He was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2002, where he continued to serve until his unsuccessful 2010 bid to become Honolulu mayor. He received only 1.5 percent of the vote in the primary.

Tam says that he was a Democrat right up until his decision this year to run for the Senate seat. He said his opposition to tax increases and fiscal conservatism prompted him to switch to the Republican Party.

As far as the more immediate issues facing the Legislature, Tam says that he wants to see the full Honolulu rail line built, but wouldn’t support an increase in the general excise tax to cover costs unless there is more financial accountability.

Asked what other options he sees for financing rail, he said, “Can we invest our money to make money?”

He said he would not support an increase in the gas tax and vehicle fees, which have been pushed by Gov. David Ige’s administration.

Beyond the more concrete issues facing the district, Tam has made his belief in democracy a central theme of his campaign.

“I want to revitalize democracy,” Tam told the Star-Advertiser. “Democracy means a lot to me and I learned about it when I went to school. People ask me, ‘Why are you so focused on democracy, Rod?’ I said, well, and I started thinking, I said, ‘I learned it in elementary school from Maemae, from Kawananakoa, then from Roosevelt.’”

Tam says he has faced “oppression and repercussions in embracing democracy and opposing community terrorism/crime,” in campaign literature he provided to the Star-Advertiser.

He says he has been defamed by the media, threatened with bankruptcy, falsely accused in the courts and had his life threatened.

He told the Star-Advertiser that the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye had ordered a hit on him in the 1980s over a housing development dispute. He said he couldn’t talk about it until recently given the sensitivity of the issue.

Tam claims a friend overheard Inouye order what he called the “death contract” while at a Zippy’s. “He overheard Dan say, ‘Get rid of Rod Tam,’” he recounted.

Rhoads is a more conventional candidate, serving in the House of Representatives since 2006.

If elected, Rhoads said two of his priorities include increasing affordable housing, especially for seniors, and increasing government transparency.

“Affordable housing can keep you busy for an entire lifetime, but it’s still an important issue,” said Rhoads, noting that wages in Hawaii have not kept up with the cost of living.

Rhoads successfully helped pass legislation that provided $151 million in funding for the state to purchase the Kukui Gardens affordable housing complex, aimed at ensuring that the several hundred units remained affordable. He has also supported the redevelopment of Mayor Wright Homes to increase the number of units and improve living conditions.

Rhoads says he has a strong track record of supporting women’s issues, including increasing women’s access to health care and emergency contraception. He was one of only two men to receive a Patsy T. Mink award, which honors leaders who have supported women’s reproductive rights.

When it comes to financing the Honolulu rail project, which has soared in price and faces a $1.8 billion shortfall, Rhoads said he would consider raising the general excise tax, but that he would like to see the city explore other options such as borrowing money for the project that could be amortized over a period of 100 years.

“It is actually quite surprising that we have paid cash for as much as we have,” said Rhoads, who points out that rail is a city project, yet no city sources of funding have been utilized.

Rhoads, like Tam, says he generally opposes tax increases and is reluctant to support Ige’s proposed increases to the gas tax and vehicle fees. But in the long run, he says he would consider an increase in the gas tax if it’s necessary to support road repairs.

Rhoads says that if elected, it’s his aim to carry on the work of Oakland, who is known for her dedication to social issues, including homelessness.

“For me, it is her work on homelessness that stands out. It was not that long ago that homelessness was not the front-and-center issue it is today,” Rhoads writes on his campaign website. “Susie focused on the issue long before it was popular to do so and for that she deserves our sincerest mahalos. With your support I intend to follow in her footsteps, continuing her tireless work for the good of the people of Hawaii.”

Comments (66)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Leave a Reply

  • Rod Tam is a crook. Wouldn’t be surprised if he were elected however. Most voters are dumb on the issues, tend to have a short memory, and vote on name recognition.

  • What the hey!!! We have a Billy Kenoi as Mayor so what’s wrong with a Rod Tam as a State Senator!!!! Our State is a political joke anyway so we might as well go all the way electing a bunch of clowns…….hey, we even have a warden showing sex tapes to his inmates…….what else is new???

    • Lets not forget state employees watching Netflix and Hulu on state computers, using state internet while being paid to do their jobs. Which they were not. And this was with full approval of all supervisors and the IT managers who could tell in a heartbeat which websites they were going to and how much bandwidth they were using.

      Talk about utterly incompetent state government.

  • Hey Rod, if you love your community, get a job, your constituents are tired of you mooching off of them. Democrat, Republican, Independent, a crook is a crook, and you are a crook. And it is totally embarrassing that you may have learned your thieving ways going to school at Maemae, Kawanakoa or Roosevelt

  • Gosh, he still has the nerve to run for office? Some people have no shame, oops, he admits he had, ‘mathematical errors” What’s worst is if he gets elected.

  • Right after Mr. Tam proposed “Tam Time” (for those of tender years, that was his proposal that State employees be given nap time each day so that they would always be a peak efficiency.) He spoke to my graduate course in budget and finance. Help me here…. I’m looking for a gentler, non-judgmental synonym for “nut-job.”

      • So if Rod Tam bought liquor as well maybe he would have gotten off? Give the guy credit at least he was man enough to own up to his transgressions as opposed to Mr. Kenoi who was found not guilty in the courts but not according to public opinion. And, he had the audacity to charge surfboards, etc. when he had his own credit card oops sorry, his wife held the credit card…my bad.

      • So if Rod Tam bought liquor as well maybe he would have gotten off? Give the guy credit at least he was man enough to own up to his transgressions as opposed to Mr. Kenoi who was found not guilty in the courts but not according to public opinion. And, he had the audacity to charge surfboards, etc. when he had his own credit card oops sorry, his wife held the credit card…my bad.

  • many people say politicians are crooks, but tam is a real crook, convicted and all. this guy has no integrity or shame. and the repubs allowed him to run under their umbrella. guess if they allowed the crook trumpy to run, then it is okay.

  • Is Tam really serious? Mathematical errors, misremembering! Taking his family to dinner and then trying to say it was for dinner with constituents, really?

    He is the one that proposed legislation to have mandatory naps for State and City employees to increase their work efficiency rate. Also another piece of legislation to support snacks too. This guy is unreal, hopefully voters in the district he’s running in are not that Lolo! Having to switch to another party just to get on the ballot is a sign of desperation and dimentia!

    • It’s Rhoads, not Rhodes. How come the paper can’t get the names of elected officials right? Oh well, Karl’s been a good Judiciary Chair. He’s a fair and principled lawmaker, even though I don’t agree with him on many occasions.

  • As for Rhodes, he’s a punk. He videotaped me and threatened to “air it on the news” when he didn’t even know what was going on. I saw a high school classmate “working” behind Pali Longs. I stopped to talk with her, having grown up with her from elementary school up until she dropped out of high school. No money exchanged hands, we were just talking, and we were catching up on how our lives had gone down severely different paths. From across the street I see Rhodes with his video camera saying stuff like “I’m sure your family will be proud to see you picking up hookers on Kukui Street.” When we were done talking, I walked across the street (using the cross walk). Rhodes got really scared and said “you better not touch me, I’ll call 911. I explained to him what happened (conversation lasted well over a half hour with my friend). He felt really stupid when I was done with him.

    Karl Rhodes is a horse’s behind. I’d sooner vote Tam over Rhodes. We know Tam is a crook and can put policies in place to minimize the probability of him committing more theft. How do we stop Rhodes from introducing “stupid” legislation as well as voting to pass more “feel good” laws that do absolutely nothing?

      • Yup. The “stupid crook” will listen and can be reasoned with. Safeguards can be put in place to minimize future theft. Can’t reason much with a self righteous mainland transplant that won’t listen to the people he was elected to represent.

    • IRT HRS134, I have mixed feelings about the district. Growing up in Kukui Gardens. Attended Kauluwela, Kawananakoa and McKinley, I can relate to your brief story. I had friend who turned m@hu after 6th grade back in the early ’80s and saw him working on Kukui by the river. Point is even if Tam grew up in the district, he’s like the old crusty uncle. He still family that was dumb enough to get busted. Rhoads, on the other hand, is a mainland transplant that lived in the Downtown hi-rise condos and “morphed into a local” with “adopted” beliefs.

  • Rod Tam has not been vilified in the media. He pled guilty to the charges, and tries to pass it off as “mathematical errors.” He also referred to Mexicans as “wetbacks” and claims he had no idea that it was a derogatory term. So he is either a racist or stupid. Either way, I wouldn’t want him in the Senate.

  • Oh Rod Tam is back from jail, blames all his problems on math error. What a crook, does he think voters are that stupid (please no). He should have said: “Put me back in public office, I miss stealing from the taxpayers, I am a loser can’t make a living in the private section.”. There should be a law banning any convicted criminals from running for public offices.

  • Hey SA, why did you bury the lede? Dan Inouye put a hit out on Rod Tam…at Zippy’s? Where’s the follow up investigation to verify this claim? Patrons of Zippy’s NEED TO KNOW! LOL

    • Yup. That was bizarre, and buried so deep in the story that I’m guessing some didn’t read it. Seriously, Rod? Dan Inouye considered you such a threat that he ordered a hit on you? Speaks volumes about Tam’s fitness to run for office. And why is it that Zippy’s revolves around this man … even the site of Inouye’s “contract” talks!

  • When voting one should always remember the following.

    The difference between Republicans and Democrats is this;

    The Republican sees a poor and or unfortunate person and says, “this is my money, get away you can’t have any”.

    The Democrat sees the same person and says, “look at that poor person, they don’t have any money, lets give them some of yours.”

    Vote Libertarian, use your money for good works as YOU see fit.

      • I voted for the constitutional candidate this time, all three of them are worthless. As far as Gary Johnson goes, his response, “what’s Aleppo” is classic libertarian policy, everybody mind their own business. We’ve been in the middle east far to long and accomplished nothing, time to pull the plug to point where we all say, “what’s the middle east”. The Republicans and Democrats have perpetuated this boondoggle far to long, time to leave.

        • The reporter should have told him Aleppo he was one of the Marx brother. Groucho,Harpo, Zippo and Aleppo!

  • I cannot find the news story anywhere, so I’m working from memory. I believe it was in the mid 80s’ where Rod Tam got the $h1t kicked out of him in some parking garage. Not sure exactly when it was. Hope my memory is still in tact. :-O

      • Possibly. I know Rep. Roland Kotani was killed by his wife who used a claw hammer. Still trying to figure out who i’m thinking about that got beat up and left in a parking garage near downtown Honolulu. If I recall correctly, the person was beaten with a wrench.

  • So Rod, if you’re able to get rail built, will you let people on if they have body odor? Or will all riders get to take naps and eat snacks?

    And really, Dan Inouye took out a contract on you? Who amongst us do you think will believe that? Now you’re just insulting our collective intelligence. You really think we’re all fools? You really are a piece of work!

    And I’ve never known a politician that blames their constituents for all his stupid ideas. Just go away already.

  • Rep. Rhodes knows how the game works. Wait [10 years] until Chun-Oakland retires then go after the job which makes it easier for him not running every 2 years. It’s the Hawaii democratic party rule of ascension. No new people, just those who have waited in line for years. Remember Case vs. Akaka. That is a no-no in the democratic party rules in Hawaii. Case lost-have not heard from him since.

    Rod Tam has always been seen as crooked, Rod’s problem is he actually got convicted as one as well.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up