State attorney general to investigate a top Hawaii official

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii attorney general’s office said Tuesday it will investigate Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi’s use of his county-issued credit card, after he acknowledged using it to cover personal expenses that included nearly $900 at a bar.

Attorney General Doug Chin said his office will investigate at the request of Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney Mitchell Roth. Roth said in a letter to Chin that he wants an independent investigation to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.

Kenoi, the top elected official of Hawaii’s Big Island, apologized for using the card for personal use, including charging nearly $900 at the Club Evergreen hostess bar in Honolulu in 2013. Typically at hostess bars, women employees sit with patrons. Club Evergreen features a full bar, sushi and karaoke.

Kailua-Kona newspaper West Hawaii Today first reported the bar tab. The newspaper also reported that other personal expenses included a $1,200 surfboard and nearly $2,000 worth of bicycle equipment.

Kenoi, a married father of three who completed last year’s Kona Ironman triathlon, has apologized for using the card inappropriately.

Throughout his tenure starting in December 2009, Kenoi charged a total of $129,580.73 on the card, county spokesman Peter Boylan said. As of Friday, Kenoi has paid back $31,112.59, Boylan said.

“I respect the decision by the Department of the Attorney General, and will cooperate fully as the process unfolds,” Kenoi said in a statement. “I remain committed to the people of Hawaii Island and to my responsibilities as mayor. I deeply regret the pain that this investigation will cause to my family and to the fine people of our community.”

The attorney general’s investigation will determine whether the office pursues or recommends criminal charges, administrative discipline or takes no action.

Roth’s letter to Chin included information about procedures and policies for the card, known as a pCard, which say the card cannot be used for personal expenses and alcohol.

“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,” Roth’s letter said. “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.”

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Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at http://www.twitter.com/JenHapa.

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