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The State VS Kenoi: Mayor Defends pCard Use

October 27, 2016, 8:42 AM HST
* Updated November 1, 9:29 AM
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Mayor Billy Kenoi. Maui County courtesy photo.

Mayor Billy Kenoi. Maui County courtesy photo.

Hawai‘i Island Mayor Kenoi took the stand on Wednesday, Oct. 26, testifying in the State vs. William P. Kenoi that accuses the mayor of the intent to permanently deprive the county of funds after alleged misuse of his county-issued pCard.

The Hilo courtroom was filled with Kenoi’s family and supporters, including heiress Abigail Kawananakoa, a descendant of King Kalakaua.

“I would never do anything for hurt this island. I’m offended for even being accused,” stated Kenoi while testifying in his defense Wednesday afternoon.

The remainder of the defense witnesses also testified Wednesday regarding their experiences with Kenoi during events where the transactions in question were made.

Kenoi held back tears when Defense Attorney Todd Eddins asked him about his childhood and parents.

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Kenoi emphasized that due to growing up with very little, he chose to work in public service and that education was very important to him because his father never completed high school.

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The defense stated that Kenoi never intended to not to pay back personal charges to his county-issued pCard, arguing that Kenoi simply made poor decisions when using the card.

Eddins walked Kenoi through the events and circumstances surrounding each transaction in question, focusing on the four remaining theft charges.

State Deputy Attorney General Kevin Takata questioned Kenoi about his remarks in the video interview with the press in Honolulu and about the time it took Kenoi to make reimbursement for each of the transactions in question.

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The prosecution argued semantics with Kenoi, saying that in the video Kenoi claimed he paid back the charges monthly and that he did not have a credit card of his own.

Kenoi admitted that not acknowledging the Discover credit card in his name was a mistake, but explained that it’s a card in his name, kept by his wife, at home, for emergencies, not something he carried and used for day-to-day expenses.

Following the state’s cross-examination, the defense asked Kenoi about the timeline for paying back the charges, such as the 254 days it took to pay back the Hilton Baltimore charge.

Kenoi said he was advised not to pay it back because it was “county purposes. You’re working. No, pay ’em back.”

Eddins asked Kenoi where the money used to reimburse the county came from.

“My family paid it,” Kenoi stated.

The defense has argued that there were obvious personal charges that Kenoi always planned to pay back, as well as county expenses that Kenoi paid in order to, “remove ambiguity.”

The total amount alleged by the state is $4,129.31. Kenoi has reimbursed $3,929.31.

Kenoi admitted that in 2013, he was advised to not make personal charges on the county card, recalling that was the first time he had heard this and that his response to the request was, “Cool.”

The mayor also testified that he told his staff that anytime reimbursement was needed for a personal pCard transaction, the blank checks he kept in his office should be used for repayment.

Prior to Kenoi’s testimony, David Gatton from the U.S. Conference of Mayors testified about the importance of the organization for the country’s mayors, the significant role Kenoi played in saving millions of dollars in funding through his relationship with the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye.

Gatton pointed out the importance of networking, building and strengthening relationships and noted that being the mayor can be a “lonely job” and that as mayor, one is “always on.”

On Monday, State Circuit Court Judge Dexter D. Del Rosario had dismissed some of the charges against Kenoi due to insufficient evidence.

From the eight charges against the mayor, the judge dismissed three misdemeanor counts of tampering with a government record.

Closing arguments are expected on Monday, Oct. 31.

RELATED LINK
The State VS Mayor Kenoi: Prosecution Rests

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