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Sunday, August 7, 2011
Police roust Mayor Kenoi, Rep Chang from Drunken Campaign Event
By Andrew Walden @ 9:27 PM :: 13971 Views :: Hawaii County , Ethics, Politicians

by Andrew Walden

In the early hours of May 1, Hawaii County police responding to noise complaints rousted Big Island Democrat Mayor Billy Kenoi and State Representative Jerry Chang (D-Hilo) from a drunken party at Aunty Sally's Luau Hale in Hilo. Of course this is normal behavior for Kenoi whose criminal record begins with a 1988 conviction for drunk driving. During the 2008 Mayoral campaign, Kenoi’s April 9, 2004 flight from police—for which no charges were filed--became a campaign issue.

What is unusual about the latest incident is that the Big Island’s so-called media actually reported it—albeit two-and-a-half weeks late. On May 19, West Hawaii Today revealed:

A loud drinking party on county property brought to a halt by the police early May 1 included Mayor Billy Kenoi, state Rep. Jerry Chang and a host of other bigwigs celebrating the end of the Merrie Monarch Festival.

It's unclear whether party organizers had a permit to serve alcohol at the event. South Hilo Patrol Capt. Robert Wagner said he couldn't locate an alcohol permit for April 30 at the location, although he did find one for an apparently unrelated event there April 29. It's possible, he said, that the permit was in the 2010 file folder, because permits are filed by the date they're granted, not the date or location of the event.

Merrie Monarch officials didn't respond to a detailed question left with staff at the office Thursday.

Hawaii County Police officers responded to a complaint of loud noise at Aunty Sally's Luau Hale, part of a county park complex near downtown Hilo, at 2:24 a.m. May 1, according to an incident report.

This is of course the same West Hawaii Today which, like its sister paper the Hawaii Tribune Herald, assiduously refused to print any story about Kenoi’s involvement in a $100-per-person fundraiser for now-convicted Pali Golf Course shooter Ethan Maul Motta. Former HTH reporter—now Kenoi spokesman—Hunter Bishop explained to the Honolulu Advertiser May 30, 2008:

There is less talk about Kenoi's attendance at the Motta fund-raiser, Bishop said, and likely more sympathy for the candidate's response that "everybody knows everybody."

"It just doesn't seem to be serious. ... I don't think it's going to stick," he said. "I think it's something people will look past."

Now WHT has chosen to reveal that Kenoi’s drunken party with Jerry Chang and “a host of other bigwigs” was paid for with campaign contributions, reporting August 6:

Six of Kenoi's campaign expenditures totaling $3,857.30 went for a Merrie Monarch after party that drew police earlier this year to Aunty Sally's Luau Hale, part of a county park complex near downtown Hilo. Police, responding to a noise complaint, broke up the party at 2:24 a.m. May 1, according to an incident report. It's not known whether party organizers had a permit to serve alcohol at the event, but the Police Department could not find one in its files.

It's unclear whether the party expenditures qualify as campaign expenses.

Campaign spending law states, "A candidate may pay ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with the candidate's duties as a holder of an elected state or county office. These expenses must be reasonable, usual, and directly related to the office."

But Kenoi said the expenditures are covered because they're considered donations to a nonprofit. The campaign is allowed to spend up to $8,000 in support of nonprofits, Kenoi said.

"We did a legal review beforehand," Kenoi said. "We wanted to support Merrie Monarch."

The expenses reported included $1,330.56 to Kadota's Liquor, $1,682.30 to Big Island Tents, $488.87 for food and $312 to rent plants….

If the proposed House redistricting maps are adopted, Second District Rep Jerry Chang (D-Hilo), who gets much of his political support from Big Island motorcycle gangs, may face a showdown with First District Rep Mark Nakashima (D-Hamakua).

In the most recent period, most of Kenoi’s $33,000 in campaign contributions came form off island. Only four contributors listed Hawaii County addresses. Republican former Congressional candidate Quentin Kawanakoa and Hawaii Republican National Committeeman Brennon Morioka each gave the Democrat Mayor $500.

---30---

WHT: MAYOR'S FUNDS WENT TO PAY FOR MERRIE MONARCH AFTER PARTY

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