East Hawaii News

State AG Takes Over Kenoi Spending Case

April 14, 2015, 11:47 AM HST
* Updated April 14, 12:22 PM
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County of Hawai’i Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth has officially passed the investigative authority over Mayor Billy Kenoi’s use of his county-issued purchasing card to the office of State Attorney General Douglas Chin.

In the statement from the Attorney General’s office, Chin notes that Mayor Kenoi has not been charged with a crime and that a criminal conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a violation of law. He said that facts learned during the investigation of Kenoi’s spending will determine whether the attorney general’s office pursues or recommends criminal charges, administrative discipline, or no further action.

“In discussions with the county prosecutor and Hawai’i Police Chief [Harry] Kubojiri, we have concluded an independent investigation may guard against an appearance of conflict under these circumstances,” said Chin. “I appreciate Prosecutor Roth and Chief Kubojiri for their cooperation and support of the law enforcement community.”

On April 6, Roth told Big Island Now that he would not be investigating the issue, saying “I wanted to make sure it was as clean as possible, not having a County agency looking at the Mayor’s account. We asked, they [the Attorney General’s office] offered, so they are going to review what’s going on and they will make the decision.”

In a letter dated April 6 to Chin, which was publicly released Tuesday, Roth formally requested that the Attorney General review the facts in regards to Mayor Kenoi’s p-card spending and determine if further action needed to be taken.

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“The events related to the Mayor’s actions have garnered an unusual amount of public attention and have called into question government trust and integrity. For this reason, I believe it is important to restore trust in the Government and that the Mayor’s actions are reviewed in the cleanest most independent and transparent way possible,” Roth detailed in the letter.

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Roth also mentioned potential viewed conflicts of interest in his letter as reasons why the matter would be best handed off to the Attorney General. He noted that despite his position as the Prosecuting Attorney being an elected position, he and his First Deputy, Dale Ross, sit in on the Mayor’s Cabinet meetings. In addition, his office is preparing for hearings on the departmental budget, in which the Mayor’s office and the Fiscal Department of the County play a major role in approving.

“While I don’t believe that either the Mayor or the Fiscal Department would use a review of the Mayor’s PCard use by our Department as a factor in determining our budget, it does create the appearance of a conflict which people already have brought up,” Roth explained in his letter.

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