Big Island mayor apologizes at Hawaii County Council meeting

Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi

Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi apologized before the Hawaii County Council Wednesday.

Before he presented his budget for FY2016, Kenoi did not ignore the elephant in the room.

A council member reprimanded a man in the audience, who called out “Resign, resign!” as Kenoi made his way to the microphone.

“To the Hawaii County Council, I’d like to first begin by apologizing to all of you for the mistakes I’ve made to our Hawaii County Council, to our administration, to the hardworking employees of the County of Hawaii, to the good people who call Hawaii Island home, to the many people who are deeply disappointed, I am truly sorry,” he said.

Kenoi previously admitted to misusing his government-issued purchasing card, or pCard, after being asked about a nearly $900 bar tab at a Honolulu hostess bar. A closer look at his statements revealed tens of thousands of dollars were also spent on travel, meals and drinks.

The state attorney general is now investigating his actions.

Council member Margaret Wille, who said she was embarrassed for the county when the mayor first admitted his actions, noted the appearance of intimidation in the administration.

“That’s what I’m told. Don’t say anything, don’t challenge him, you know, he’s retaliatory, and it’s not good,” she said, adding that transparency is necessary to “take the bully out of Billy.”

Wille herself gave up her pCard, but not because of misuse, according to the county clerk.

Other council members praised Kenoi and accepted his apology.

“In my short period of being on the council, your administration as well as yourself have really expressed to me your desire to serve this island community,” said Maile David.

“As a Puna council member, thank you for your leadership regarding the tropical storm and also the lava,” said Greggor Ilagan.

“On a personal note, our fathers are still looking down on us and they’re proud of you,” said Daniel Paleka Jr.

Big island residents also testified, some via video conference from other parts of the island.

“When the trust of the public is breached, it’s very difficult to get it back,” one resident said.

“He’s proven to be a bully and I’m frankly ashamed and disappointed in the council members,” another resident said.

“I think the mayor has intimidated you into being followers,” said another.

A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office told KHON2 that anything the mayor says in public about his pCard use can be used in the investigation, if necessary.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii County Board of Ethics continues to look into a complaint filed against the mayor and the county’s finance director.

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