East Hawaii News

Kenoi Spending Complaint in ‘Initial Review’

April 13, 2015, 3:29 PM HST
* Updated April 13, 3:30 PM
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May 13 will be a key date in the recent firestorm over Mayor Billy Kenoi’s personal spending on his county-issued credit card.

According to the office of County of Hawai’i Deputy Corporation Counsel Danny Patel, that date is when the County Board of Ethics will determine if Kenoi’s spending habits warrants an investigation. A complaint filed last Tuesday is in an “initial review” status.

During the meeting, ethics board attorney J Yoshimoto will not serve in any function relating to the Kenoi case, as first announced by Corporation Counsel Molly Stebbins last week. Stepping in for Yoshimoto will be Gary Murai, Deputy Corporation Counsel for the County of Maui.

“The only difference is that with Maui County’s involvement instead of a Hawai’i County attorney, a Maui County attorney will instead sit on the board,” Maui County Communication Director Rod Antone explained Friday.

Big Island Now obtained a copy of the only complaint filed to the Board of Ethics. The complaint was received by the board on Tuesday, April 7, shortly after Yoshimoto told Big Island Now that no petition had been filed yet.

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In the complaint, which is filed by a Kapa’au resident who had his name redacted, it alleges that “The nature of my interest is that I can not abide to have a Mayor for whom I voted be a simple, common thief and remain in office. The reason for the submission of this Petition is that I want him to be held accountable for his malfeasance and misfeasance. He has stolen thousands of dollars from the taxpayers, and I want to see him spend time in prison for the felony offenses which he committed. At the very least, pursuant to Hawaii County Charter §14- 6 I would like to see him removed from office.”

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County Charter §14- 6 states that “failure to comply with the provisions of Sections 14- 2 to 14-4, inclusive, shall constitute a cause for suspension, removal from office or employment, or such other penalty as the council may prescribe by ordinance. Nothing herein shall preclude any other remedy available against the officer or employee of the county as provided by law.”

The complaint also targets County Finance Director Deanna Sako, saying she should be removed from her post “as a warning to other county employees to not be willing to look the other way. When a county employee knows of wrongdoing, they must be willing to act in a principled manner to protect the taxpayers and citizens of Hawaii County. It took her months to do this.”

Kenoi’s p-Card spending has come under massive scrutiny ever since card statements obtained by the media showed numerous personal purchases. Of note were two purchases at Honolulu hostess bars, a $400 charge at Camelot on Sept. 23, 2009 and an $892 charge on Dec. 4, 2013 at Club Evergreen. Kenoi maintains he has reimbursed the County for his charges.

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