Experts: Kenoi criminal case unlikely - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Experts: Kenoi criminal case unlikely

Despite making thousands of dollars of personal purchases on his county credit card, legal experts say the chances of a criminal charges against Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi are slim.Hawaii News Now has learned that Big Island Prosecutor Mitch Roth has asked the state Attorney General's office to review Kenoi's transactions but so far neither agency has decided to open a formal investigation.

"Any investigator would have to establish circumstantially or through direct evidence that the mayor intended not to repay, that he somehow tried to hide or camouflage these expenses and that's not been the case here," said defense attorney Myles Breiner.

"It's one thing to say someone exercised bad judgment. It's another thing to say there was criminal intent and frankly I don't see criminal intent on behalf of the mayor."

Since taking office in 2009, Kenoi has racked up more than $120,000 on his county purchase card. Nearly all of that was for legitimate business travel but about $9,000 was spent on personal items, such as a $900 night at the Club Evergreen in 2013 and $400 at the Camelot Restaurant & Lounge in 2009.

The key legal term is "intent." Prosecutors have to show that Kenoi knew or should have known that what he was doing was illegal. Kenoi said he never intended to break the law and did reimburse the county for his questionable expenses.

"I was under the mistaken impression that as long as I made payment, took responsibility and did not shift that burden to the taxpayer that it was okay," Kenoi said earlier this week.

Records obtained by Hawaii News Now show that Kenoi was reimbursing the county for personal charges as early as 2009, which suggests county finance officials were okay with the practice.

But questions still remain as to how the finance department allowed Kenoi to get away with so much personal spending for so many years.

View Kenoi's full statements below:


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