New hostess bar charges by Kenoi - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

New hostess bar charges by Kenoi

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Already in political hot water for his $900 night at the Club Evergreen, Hawaii News Now has learned that Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi also took the county credit card to the Camelot Restaurant & Lounge on Sheridan Street, dropping $400 at the hostess bar.

That was September 2009. Kenoi immediately paid back the county for his bar tab but political experts say that's not the issue.

"This is the kind of thing people resign over. I don't really understand why you would ever think it was appropriate to use a county credit card, even if you intended to pay the money back," said Colin Moore, HNN political analyst and political science professor at the University of Hawaii.

"I think any other county or state official would have been fired over a one- or two-time occurrence of something like this."

The latest hostess bar disclosure comes at Big Island Prosecutors are mulling a criminal investigation. 

Attorney General Doug Chin said he spoke briefly with Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth at the state Capitol and offered his office's assistance if needed. If Big Island prosecutors go ahead with an investigation, they're likely turn it over the AGs office due to potential conflicts.

Yesterday, Kenoi apologized for his actions and said he repaid more than $26,000 for a variety of personal expenses and county-related purchases.

"I want to take full responsibility for the issues of my government card. Any mistakes that were made were entirely my own," he said.

Kenoi told Hawaii News Now that his use of the card doesn't warrant a criminal investigation because there was no intent to have taxpayers pay for his spending. 

Kenoi said he reimbursed the county for most of his non-travel expenses immediately, with the exception of about $7,500, which he paid this week.

The hostess bar tabs are among the $120,000 in charges that Kenoi racked up on his government credit card since he took office in 2009. The county released those records to Hawaii News Now today.

Other charges include $1,200 for a surfboard, $1,900 for a high-end bicycle and nearly $600 for his 2013 membership dues for the Hawaii State Bar Association.

The records also show that Kenoi spent more than $2,100 over several visits to the Sansei Restaurant and Sushi Bar in Waikoloa and more than $800 at Shokudo Japanese Restaurant & Bar in Honolulu.

The vast majority of the charges -- more than $100,000 -- were for travel and hotel accommodations. He often stayed at high-end hotels such as the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C., the Four Seasons in San Francisco and the Sheraton Waikiki.

Most of Kenoi's travel was for business functions on Oahu but he also took trips to the Philippines in 2012 and Japan in 2010, the records show.

Former Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said he rarely traveled -- about once a year to Oahu and twice to Maui during his eight years in office.

"That's a lot of money for traveling," he said.

Kim said Kenoi is not being watched like he was. Kim said he rarely used his county credit card and added that he was taken to task by county officials back in 2002 when he spent $100 on his card to buy lunches for school children on a field trip.

"You go through it and you're not reminded or reprimanded and you're not punished. Obviously you've been given special treatment," Kim said.

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