Taxpayers funded millions in contracts for troubled engineering firm at center of federal probe

4 of the architecture and engineering firm’s executives have been indicted for bribery and civil rights violations.
Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 6:12 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 20, 2022 at 6:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mitsunaga and associates was paid millions in taxpayer dollars for government contracts that were awarded even after the firm was the target of a federal investigation.

Four of the architecture and engineering firm’s executives have been indicted for bribery and civil rights violations in connection with the public corruption scandal.

Hawaii News Now obtained the list of contracts with the state, University of Hawaii and the city since 2019.

The list includes a $5 million award for what’s described as statewide “general civil engineering services” with the state Transportation Department. Other contracts included airport project improvements amounting to $1.5 million and $1.6 million for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

At the University of Hawaii, the firm is working on the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletic Complex.

And for the city, the company is providing work at the Pearl City District Park swimming pool, which has been closed for three years for construction improvements.

Manoa Valley District Park and Dole Community Park improvements are also on the list.

Experts don’t believe any of the current projects will be impacted by the indictment of the firm’s executives, but they believe future projects could be.

“I think it will have an immediate effect because of who has been indicted,” said retired federal public defender Alexander Silvert.

“It’s the top level so I think it’s going to affect the bottom line of the company in the short term.”

Retired state Judge and Prosecutor Randal Lee agreed that government officials should be careful of associating with the firm on future projects.

“Politicians as well as procurement officers should be aware that people are looking at this,” he said.

The Mitsunaga and Associates employees indicted are:

  • Dennis Mitsunaga, president & CEO
  • Aaron Fujii, chief operating officer
  • Chad McDonald, listed as senior vice president in the federal indictment
  • Terri Otani, executive director

Keith Kaneshiro, the former city prosecutor, was the main target in the group.

The indictment alleges Kaneshiro prosecuted a former Mitsunaga and associates employee who sued the business. All the defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Lee said other companies have survived negative attention stemming from criminal cases.

But he added that the long-term effects if they are convicted could include debarment.

“It could prohibit him from getting contracts with the state or with the city for three years,” Lee said.

A trial for the group is set for mid September.

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