Hawaii island Mayor Billy Kenoi took the stand in his own defense this morning and teared up as he talked about his humble upbringing in Kalapana, where his family had little resources and were embarrassed that friends had to use an outhouse.
Kenoi, wearing a dark suit, crisp white shirt, but no tie, teared up and, with a shaky voice, talked about the values of “aloha” he learned as one of eight children.
Kenoi testified for about 40 minutes and recounted his education, where he had poor grades, but support from teachers who led him to law school.
Under questioning from his attorney, Todd Eddins, Kenoi began describing how he assembled his first mayoral team when Judge Dexter Del Rosario called for a lunch-time recess.
Kenoi is scheduled to resume his testimony at 1 p.m. today.
He faces five criminal charges over misuse of his government purchasing card. Del Rosario dismissed three counts of tampering with government records Monday due to insufficient evidence.
In all, Kenoi had faced eight counts related to 15 transactions that he charged to his county-issued pCard, or purchasing card, from 2011 to 2014.
The remaining charges include four counts of theft — two of them second-degree felonies and two third-degree — and one count of false swearing or making a false statement under oath.
Kenoi has acknowledged paying the county back $31,000 in unauthorized personal expenses charged on the pCard. Kenoi charged a total of about $129,000 on his pCard, including alcohol purchases.