EXCLUSIVE: Kenoi plea deal mulled

EXCLUSIVE: Kenoi plea deal mulled
Mayor Billy Kenoi (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Mayor Billy Kenoi (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Image: Hawaii News Now
Image: Hawaii News Now

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Since the scandal over his personal use of a county credit card broke nearly a year ago, Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi has insisted he didn't commit a crime.
But Hawaii News Now has learned that his attorneys met with the state Attorney General's office earlier this month to consider a possible plea deal.

If a deal does not materialize, the attorney general's office could convene a grand jury within a month to pursue possible theft charges.

Former Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said it's vital that a resolution be reached soon.

"It's way past time in many people's eyes," he said. "This isn't about Kenoi. This isn't just about the pCard or whatever the investigation is. This is about trust in government."

Kenoi is under investigation for using his county pCard to pay for dozens of meals, drinks, and hotel rooms, many of which were for his personal use.

The card was also used to pay for a $900 night at the Club Evergreen hostess bar back in 2013 and a $400 outing at the Camelot Restaurant and Lounge in 2009. Kenoi says he has repaid the county for all personal charges and has denied he took money from taxpayers.

If Kenoi is convicted before his term runs out at the end of the year, the law doesn't require him to resign his office but legal experts say he would be under great pressure to do so.

"At that point in time, anybody who is not his friend is going to demand that he step down," said attorney Eric Seitz, who has represented a number of former and current state and county officials targeted in public corruption probes. "And in most instances, as far as I know, that's happened. The political figure has stepped down because his moral authority is sufficiently eroded."

A conviction also places Kenoi's law license at risk.

"If he's convicted the Supreme Court could step in and summarily suspend him," Seitz said.

Kenoi's attorneys had no immediate comment.

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