UPDATED 5:00 p.m. 09/13/10

Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell has gone on the attack against his opponent, Peter Carlisle, in a new TV ad.

In the ad (embedded below), after touting Caldwell for “growing our economy and jobs,” an announcer says: “But Peter Carlisle? Spending in his office spiraled out of control, up 60 percent. And Carlisle’s taken six separate pay raises. Six pay raises? Skyrocketing budgets? Makes you wonder, is Peter Carlisle really ready to be mayor?”

(Comments begin at 00:14)

We can’t tell you whether Carlisle is “ready to be mayor,” but we can tell you that Caldwell’s statistics are at the very least, misleading.

First, Carlisle was prosecutor for 14 years, and the ad is selective in picking the years to use to evaluate his budget. Civil Beat earlier this year examined Carlisle’s budget record. We were able to go back only to 2001, which was the oldest city budget available online.

On Aug. 11, we reported what had happened with Carlisle’s budget over the last decade.

The table below shows how his office’s budget increased since 2000. (He took office in 1996.)

Fiscal Year Number of Full-Time Positions Amount Budgeted for Salaries Total Office Budget
’00 – ’01 ? $9,694,094 $11,930,102
’01 – ’02 280 $11,865,836 $13,814,936
’02 – ’03 279 $13,055,425 $15,279,900
’03 – ’04 284 $13,381,428 $15,565,453
’04 – ’05 285 $13,898,341 $16,707,337
’05 – ’06 294 $14,674,208 $18,083,647
’06 – ’07 289 $13,247,519 $18,488,838
’07 – ’08 298 $15,476,796 $18,858,806
’08 – ’09 289 $15,872,484 $19,348,621
’09 – ’10 289 $15,751,167 $19,266,104
’10 – ’11 289 $14,338,735* $17,875,392*

*Projected budget

Now, if you look at these numbers from fiscal year 2001 to fiscal year 2009, it is true that the percent change in total spending for the prosecutor’s office grew about 62 percent, from $11,930,102 to $19,348,621.

However, if you extend the sample period to fiscal year 2011, the last budget proposed by Carlisle, the total percent change is less, just under 50 percent, in 11 years.

To remove some of the timeframe ambiguity, however, Civil Beat looked at Caldwell’s ad again. Specifically, the fine print.

During the advertisement, while the announcer is making the claims against Carlisle, the small type at the bottom of the screen says: “Source: City & County of Honolulu Executive Program and Budget, FY2003, pg. 22-4, FY2011, pg. 8-277.”

This seems to imply that the 60 percent increase the ad is referring to came during the years between 2003 and 2011.

The percent change during this period was just under 17 percent, from $15,279,900 to $17,875,392.

By comparison, under former Mayor Mufi Hannemann‘s administration (of which Caldwell was the managing director beginning in January of 2009), Honolulu’s annual operating costs jumped 39 percent from January 2005 to July 2010.

The table below shows how Honolulu’s operating budget has increased since 2000.

Fiscal Year Total Office Budget
’00 – ’01 $975,358,071
’01 – ’02 $1,016,628,207
’02 – ’03 $1,125,274,563
’03 – ’04 $1,187,062,780
’04 – ’05 $1,205,735,533
’05 – ’06 $1,373,203,513
’06 – ’07 $1,506,345,236
’07 – ’08 $1,566,756,134
’08 – ’09 $1,679,423,084
’09 – ’10 $1,818,559,927
’10 – ’11 $1,840,390,617*
  • Projected budget

That means in the same time period as Carlisle’s budget grew 50 percent, the city’s grew 89 percent. If you use the ’03 to ’11 years in small print at the bottom of the ad, the percent increase for the city was 64 percent.

You get the picture. Carlisle’s budget grew more slowly than the city’s. So if he’s out of control, we’d hate to say what that says about the city.

As for whether Carlisle received six pay raises during his career as prosecutor?

This is accurate. But again, what is left out makes all the difference.

UPDATE

The city prosecutor’s salary is determined by the City and County of Honolulu Salary Commission.1 While Carlisle can make a recommendation, he has no decision-making authority on the matter. Caldwell’s ad seems to suggest that Carlisle gives himself his raises, and is therefore misleading. (We’d point out that most people like to get a raise every year. Six raises in 14 years wouldn’t satisfy most people.)

Carlisle in March 2008 did appear before the city salary commission to ask for a raise. (hat-tip: Marcus Oshiro, http://www.civilbeat.org/comments/4300/)

Carlisle’s spokesman, Jim Fulton, didn’t dispute that his candidate had asked for a raise, but said he was positive that Carlisle had also asked that his salary not be raised and that he thinks it occurred in Spring 2008. Fulton then directed Civil Beat to Former Deputy Police Chief Karl Godsey.

Godsey said that while he too could not recall the specific date, he was in the room when Carlisle made his request. Godsey said that he believed it was 2008 when the economy began to fall.

“The salary commission met a few times in early 2008,” Godsey told Civil Beat. “What I do recollect, and I can’t be specific about the date, is that Peter did ask that they not give him a raise.”

Now, we know that these accounts couldn’t stand up in court. Over the past few days, we have put in several calls to the City and County Salary Commission as well as several e-mails. They have not yet responded, but when they do, we’ll update this fact check with a more accurate account of what happened.


  1. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Hawaii State Salary Commission determined the Honolulu city prosecutor’s pay.