Russell Figueiroa, the president of the engineering firm R.M. Towill Corp., has posted a statement on the company’s website denying that he wrote a letter alleging corruption by former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, his former deputy director and confidant Trudi Saito, and Saito’s brother, insurance agent Bruce Matsushita.
Figueiroa called the claims in the letter “outright lies and negative innuendos” and said he reported the apparent forgery to authorities. The letter was initially circulated in the engineering and architectural community and then to members of the Waialae Country Club and others. Matsushita is the club’s president-elect.
The letter was immediately suspicious because of its amateur quality and the fact that Figueiroa’s name was spelled wrong.
This is to inform you that I did not write that letter, and I have never given anyone permission to use my name in connection with outright lies and negative innuendos made about Mufi Hannemann, Bruce Matsushita, Trudi Saito and others.
I can only assume this is a despicable smear campaign being used against Mufi Hannemann and his supporters, timed for the coming elections.
Figueiroa, who supports Hannemann, could not be reached for comment.
William McCorriston, Figueiroa’s attorney, said Figueiroa decided to post the Aug. 20 statement because the letter had been so widely circulated and had the potential to damage his reputation.
“I think politics has reached the lowest of the low when people steal other people’s identity and forge letters and publish lies, all for the purpose of political gain,” he said.
McCorriston said Figueiroa has discussed the matter with the FBI. He said that he is also investigating who was behind the letter. “If we do uncover the culprits there will be hell to pay,” he said.
Tom Simon, a special agent with the FBI, said the FBI does not comment on the existence of an ongoing investigation.
The Hannemann campaign has privately wrestled over how to the handle the letter, but had to address it publicly after Figueiroa posted his statement.
“The state of Hawaii has a history of last-minute smears, and this is no different,” said David Wilson, a spokesman for the Hannemann campaign. “What’s troubling is that based on the large volume of mailings — whoever is doing this mailing, it’s a fraudulent letter because it wasn’t signed by the guy they said signed it — is that it’s organized and funded.
“And that is really a huge disappointment to the Hannemann campaign. I’m not pointing fingers. I’m not naming names. I’m just saying that this is an organized hit.
“Clearly, where this is coming from, they are not the Boy Scouts of America,” he said. “Boy Scouts know better.”
Former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, Hannemann’s opponent, released this statement today:
According to news reports, an obviously forged letter that makes accusations against Mufi Hannemann and purports to be from Russell Figueiroa is being distributed to people in Hawaii. This forged letter and any such acts like it are despicable and the perpetrators should be caught and punished. They do nothing but harm to our entire community.
Particularly in this age of instant communications, all citizens have a responsibility to carefully consider what is presented to them. It is important that we not let the juvenile acts of a few people degrade and corrupt our political system. When something such as this letter appears—something so obviously done with malice and distributed in such a cowardly manner—I believe it is best for people to dismiss it and condemn it into oblivion where it belongs.