Hawaii County employees testify on day 2 of Kenoi trial
HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - The second day of the felony theft trial against Billy Kenoi featured current and former aides to the Big Island mayor.
Kevin Dayton, who was Kenoi's executive assistant until 2015 and is now a Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter, testified that Kenoi's face-to-face interactions went a long way in Washington D.C.
He said it was common for Kenoi to have discussions over a few drinks, but the importance of establishing those kinds of relationships with top political figures and their staff was huge because they could deliver resources to the county.
Dayton attributed the high percentage of federal funds to Hawaii County directly to Kenoi's efforts.
Kenoi's attorney, Todd Eddins, asked Dayton, "When people are drawn, then things get done, is that right?"
He responded, "That's the hope, yes, seemed to work that way."
Kenoi faces charges of felony and misdemeanor theft and tampering with a government record over the misuse of his government credit card.
He's accused of spending thousands of dollars on alcohol and other unauthorized purchases in Hawaii and on the mainland on his county-issued purchasing card, or pCard.
"I would say he was probably the most effective of the lobbyists, the most effective person making the case because he's well liked," Dayton said. "Some of the other mayors are not. Mayor Kenoi has a lot of charisma and people just are drawn to him."
The county's current finance director, Deanna Sako, was also called to testify.
Prosecutors questioned her about various alcohol purchases made by Kenoi on his pCard.
They're arguing Kenoi passed on the large amounts of money spent on alcohol as legitimate county expenses. But Kenoi's defense team argues most of the purchases were indeed legitimate and he paid back the ones that weren't.
"Have you ever edited a document like this prior to it going to the media?" Deputy Attorney General Michelle Puu asked Sako, while showing her a county expense spreadsheet requested by the media.
"Not that I recall," Sako replied.
"Not that I recall, but you may have?" asked Puu.
"I don't remember," Sako responded.
Also called to the stand was Kenoi's secretary, Paulette Wilson. She was also asked about the mayor's pCard spending and a series of emails in response to media questioning about Kenoi's spending records.
"Did you ever refer to the spreadsheets that were provided to the media as 'clean' vs. 'dirty,'" Puu asked Wilson.
"I never referred to it as 'clean or dirty.' That was sent to me, I didn't use those words," replied Wilson.
The trial resumes Monday in Hilo. Prosecutors are expected to rest their case that day, then the defense will present their case.
It's still unclear whether Kenoi will take the stand himself. Closing arguments are scheduled for Oct. 31.
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