The Hawaii Congress of Planning Officials began its annual conference on Wednesday with an array of federal, state and local government officials who traveled to Kauai to discuss dry topics like housing, streets and planning law.
But a video shot Wednesday night in a hospitality suite at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa showed conference attendees taking part in activities that could be described as anything but dry.
At the center of the video was Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi, who appeared to be heavily intoxicated and was seen giving a profanity-laced toast of Garden Island Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., who is co-hosting the conference.
The video is notable because Kenoi has been accused by criminal prosecutors of using taxpayer money to buy, as the prosecutors put it, “exorbitant amounts of alcohol,” among other things.
Kenoi is awaiting trial next month on two counts of second-degree felony theft, two counts of misdemeanor theft, three counts of tampering with government records and one count of making a false statement under oath.
Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi Heavily Intoxicated At Conference Party
In the four-minute video, Kenoi can be seen wearing slippers and shorts and holding a beverage as he called people to attention for the toast.
“Everybody, shut the fuck up!” Kenoi said.
When the party quieted down, Kenoi moved ahead with his toast.
“We here on the beautiful Garden Isle of Kauai,” he said. “And we not here just to fucking have a good party. We here because it’s a beautiful island managed in one beautiful way.”
Carvalho appeared uncomfortable in the video, at one point putting his arm around Kenoi and whispering into his ear just before Kenoi ended his rambling toast.
A spokesperson for Kenoi did not respond to a request for comment.
Party Paid For By ‘Sponsors And Individuals’
Kauai County spokesperson Sarah Blane told Civil Beat on Thursday the party was “an informal social gathering that was held after the formal program of events.”
The food and drinks were paid for by “event sponsors and individuals,” Blane said in an email. “The county did not make those purchases.”
Blane also released a written statement from Carvalho: “Billy had good intentions to express his gratitude and appreciation to those who work hard to serve the community, and I appreciate him coming to Kauai to support the conference and recognize the good work of our Planning Department and planners throughout the state.”
The conference was sponsored by some major corporations who do business in the state, including Kaiser Permanente, D.R. Horton Hawaii, Alexander & Baldwin, Kamehameha Schools and R.M Towill Corp.
According to the program, featured speakers at the conference (titled “The Tao of Planning”) included Ron Sims, a former deputy secretary of U.S. Housing and Urban Development; Scott Enright, chair of the state Board of Agriculture; Ed Sniffen, deputy director of highways for the state Department of Transportation; Bonnie Arakawa, community planning chief for Honolulu; and Alan Takemoto, community affairs manager for Monsanto.
Also on the agenda: Pau Hana Popcorn and Libations, Casino and Karaoke Night, Yoga with Duke Nakamatsu and a Na Pali Boat Tour (“$100 including transportation, boat tour, snorkel equipment, floatation devices, snacks, lunch, and drinks. Towels will be provided as well”).
There was also a giveaway contest of three Apple Watches or a two-night stay at the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina.
Speakers and presenters were to receive Kauai-made “mahalo items” courtesy of companies like the Koloa Rum Company, a distillery.
The hospitality suite gathering followed a reception at the hotel’s grand ballroom.
“Put on your dance shoes and fellowship with our planner brothers and sisters as we libate and celebrate the mother of modern participatory planning!” the conference program stated.
Kenoi’s Trouble With Booze
The criminal charges against Kenoi stem from his use of a Hawaii County-issued purchasing card, or pCard. The mayor racked up nearly $130,000 on the card before it was revoked in March 2015, following newspaper reports.
Kenoi’s tabs allegedly included$895 at one Honolulu hostess bar, $400 at another and $700 at a Hilo karaoke bar.
Last week, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported that Kenoi and department leaders had been informed about spending guidelines in 2008 that said meals for which reimbursement is sought “should be made on an itemized receipt. NO LIQUOR!”
Kenoi’s attorneys Todd Eddins and Richard Sing were quoted in the article saying, “Sharing an alcoholic drink has always been a common part of doing business and conducting the affairs of government in this country — and around the world. Alcohol consumption among business and government officials indisputably serves the goal of developing closer and more meaningful relationships.”
The mayor, who is completing his second and final four-year term in office, has paid back more than $30,000 in personal expenses charged to the pCard.
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