Honolulu City Council member Tom Berg tongue-lashed his former chief of staff Wednesday morning as he defended himself during a tense Campaign Spending Commission meeting.

Eric Ryan filed a sworn affidavit that accuses his old boss of forcing him to do 616 hours of campaign work on the city’s dime. Berg employed him from January 2011 until he fired him six months later.

Based solely on the hundreds of pages of documents, the agency’s general counsel, Gary Kam, said the three-member commission should fine Berg $2,000 for failing to report in-kind contributions and order him to reimburse the city $28,646 for its lost time.

Chair Michael Weaver said the commission was baffled by Berg’s decision to wait until Wednesday to fight the allegations, which the commission started asking him about weeks ago.

“You had ample time to refute these charges,” Weaver said. “We’re at a loss as to why you didn’t.”

Berg said he hadn’t even looked at the computer disc with the documents supporting the charges against him because he has been bombarded by Ryan, who maintains a website to impeach the councilman and is pursuing ethics charges.

“I’ve answered this so many times with so many people I can’t take it anymore,” Berg said, calling Ryan nothing more than a disgruntled former employee. “I have a breaking point, sir, and I did break. I hope you give me the opportunity to become whole again.”

The commissioners deferred the matter until their Nov. 14 meeting. They gave Berg a week to review the affidavit. They gave Ryan until Oct. 22 to respond to anything the councilman might submit.

Berg sat with his staff member, Evelyn Souza, as Ryan presented his “mountain of evidence” to the commission. Berg’s expression went from exasperation to disbelief as Ryan read from an eight-page statement.

“After winning election to the City Council, Berg asked me to put my private sector career on hold and work for him at City Hall, which I did as his chief of staff for six roller-coaster months during which time Berg utilized me and all other members of his staff for the benefit of Berg’s political career and his re-election campaign as well as Berg’s unlawful and likewise totally unreported use of city funds and many other city resources to those same illegal ends,” Ryan said.

The red-faced Berg lambasted Ryan when he got a chance to speak.

“Mr. Ryan runs clandestine operations,” Berg said, adding that he caught him stealing from Berg’s own checking account and giving himself a raise using his city stamp. “The man is lying to you. This complaint is just so thick, so full of crap.”

The session went back and forth for an hour with Ryan and Berg taking turns addressing the commission to accuse each other of serious crimes and then deny the charges.

Ryan’s complaint was one of three dockets concerning Berg on the commission’s agenda.

The commission dismissed a complaint filed by Carroll Cox for the untimely deposit of campaign contributions, but decided to fine Berg $250 for a violation related to donated T-shirts.

Berg said Patty Teruya, who filed the complaint with Cox, gave him 24 T-shirts to use in his campaign. He said she was just going to throw the shirts in the trash, so he didn’t report the contribution.

“I had no idea that someone else’s discarded junk is a penalty,” he said, adding that Teruya set him up because she was mad he did not hire her later.

The meeting marked the latest chapter in an ongoing saga between Berg and Ryan, who also maintains a website against Kymberly Pine, a state representative running against Berg for his District 1 council seat.

In other business, the commission voted to fine Rep. Karen Awana $400 for defective campaign spending reports; approved 17 conciliation agreements for various violations by candidates and political action committees; and dismissed a complaint filed against Kauai Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho alleging she failed to report in-kind contributions.

About the Author