EXCLUSIVE: Kenoi's per diem questions

EXCLUSIVE: Kenoi's per diem questions

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Back in February 2012, Big Island Mayor Bill Kenoi traveled to Honolulu to visit the state Legislature and to meet with the Philippines Consul General.

He received a $180 advance, or per diem, to cover his meals and other incidental costs. But during the same trip, he also charged $160 on his county credit card, or pCard, for meals and drinks at the Shinsho Tei restaurant in Nuuanu.

A Hawaii News Now analysis of more than 140 pages of Kenoi's travel and credit card records shows that the mayor collected more than $4,000 in per diems on trips that he also used his pCard to pay his restaurant tabs. The practice of getting money from two sources to pay for the same thing is often called double dipping.

"Then that would be a concern because that would mean the traveler is being reimbursed twice, or allowed to have money twice for the same purchase," said former state Auditor Marion Higa.

Here are some other examples from Kenoi's records:

-- In February 2013, he charged $160 on his pCard at the Tsunami restaurant on King Street while receiving a $100 per diem.

-- While to Washington, D.C. in 2011, he spent $484 at Clyde's Gallery Place restaurant, while receiving a $600 per diem for the trip.

-- And in June 2013, the mayor charged $300 on his pCard at the Tsukuneya restaurant on University Avenue, even though he received a $90 per diem from the county.

A per diem is the money that a county or state advances to its employees whenever they travel on official business, usually to pay for meals or hotel expenses. It's usually a check that's issued after the employee fills out a form detailing the expenses.

When asked about the per diems, a spokesman for the mayor had no response.

Kenoi has reimbursed many of his travel-related meals he paid for with his pCard saying it was a personal expenses. But in some cases it took him a year or more to pay the county back.

The apparent double dipping comes as Attorney General Doug Chin has launched an investigation into Kenoi's use of county credit card.

Higa says that because the questionable use of the credit card occurred for so long, she questions whether the county had the correct internal controls in place.

"Is anyone checking or looking at what was advanced versus what was claimed," said Higa.

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