Ethics Board seeks Kenoi gift disclosures

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When it meets Wednesday to consider a citizen’s petition against Mayor Billy Kenoi, the Hawaii County Board of Ethics also plans to discuss whether Kenoi should have been filing gift disclosures over the past six years.

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When it meets Wednesday to consider a citizen’s petition against Mayor Billy Kenoi, the Hawaii County Board of Ethics also plans to discuss whether Kenoi should have been filing gift disclosures over the past six years.

Kapaau resident Lanric Hyland, in his petition, charges that Kenoi violated the county ethics code provision prohibiting county officials and employees from using their official positions “to secure special privileges, consideration, treatment or exemption to themselves or any person beyond which is available to every other person.”

At issue is the mayor’s use of his county-issued credit card for personal and campaign expenses. So far, he’s paid back $31,112.59 of the $129,580.73 he charged during his tenure.

His account has been revoked and the state attorney general is investigating.

But also at issue for the Ethics Board is the lack of gift disclosures for the mayor, who has reported in his pCard paperwork that he’s received a range of reimbursements for some of his travel. The board has put a discussion of that issue on the top of its agenda, right after election of officers, for the meeting that begins at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Hilo council chambers.

Most notable is a $3,657 reimbursement from the Big Island Visitors Bureau for a trip to Japan in August 2010, where Kenoi and tourism officials met with airlines officials, seeking the resumption of direct Japan-Kona commercial flights.

George Applegate, then executive director of the Big Island Visitors Bureau, has since joined Kenoi’s staff on a $50,000, one-year, 24-hour-a-week contract that began in December. Applegate did not return a detailed telephone message left at the county Department of Research and Development office Friday morning.

Hawaii County officers and employees are prohibited from accepting gifts where it can reasonably be inferred that the gift is intended to influence them in the performance of their official duties. Other gifts valued at more than $100 must be reported to the Board of Ethics by June 30 each year. Failure to do so could result in fines up to $1,000.

Another trip paid on Kenoi’s pCard that was reimbursed was $309 repaid in 2013 by the National Association for Foreign Student Affairs, according to the records.

An Ethics Board staffer said Friday that the board has no record of gift disclosures submitted by the mayor.

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A spokesman for the mayor said Friday that the office was still in the process of putting the reports together.

The public can testify at the beginning of the meeting from the Hilo council chambers or via videoconference from the former Bank of Hawaii building in Kapaau.

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