2011 Conviction for Theft Dogs Tam in Senate Race

By Cocke, Sophie | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, November 3, 2016 | Go to article overview

2011 Conviction for Theft Dogs Tam in Senate Race


Cocke, Sophie, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


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. …

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