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Ethics complaint filed against Big Island mayor, official

  • Star-Advertiser

KAILUA-KONA >>An ethics complaint filed this week is targeting Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi and a finance official over Kenoi’s personal purchases on a county credit card.

Kapaau resident Lanric Hyland filed the complaint Monday with the county Board of Ethics. Hyland said Kenoi and county Finance Director Deanna Sako should be removed from office for Kenoi’s misuse of the credit card and Sako’s complicity in it, West Hawaii Today, reported.

Kenoi has reimbursed the county for a total of $26,000 in personal and county-related charges. He has apologized for the credit card use.

As far as Hyland is concerned, the use of the credit card “shows an arrogant and disgusting disregard of the law.” He believes Sako should be fired as a warning to other county workers.

“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,” Hyland said.

In his petition, Hyland said Kenoi violated a provision of the county ethics code that prohibits county employees from using their official positions to obtain special privileges or treatment.

The ethics board is among several agencies looking into Kenoi’s credit-card use. The mayor has said he will cooperate with investigations.

Sako became finance director in January after the retirement of former finance director Nancy Crawford. Previously, the ethics board determined it had no jurisdiction over former officials.

Sako said Crawford had warned Kenoi in 2013 about personal credit card charges. She said she thought the personal use had ended.

The use of the credit card first came to light when West Hawaii Today reported on an $892 charge at a Honolulu hostess bar. The mayor has said he reimbursed the county three months later.

Other purchases, according to statements dating between 2009 and 2015, reflect a pattern of spending for drinks, dining and luxury hotels, and include a $1,200 surfboard.

Board of Ethics Acting Chairwoman Ku Kahakalau said the board will look into Hyland’s petition. However, the board could initiate its own investigation if it feels that is warranted, Kahakalau said.

“It could be something we could consider one way or the other,” she said. “With or without a petition, we have a chance to put it on the agenda.”

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