First pCard bill drafted

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Hawaii County Councilman Greggor Ilagan plans to introduce legislation aimed at further clarifying the county law prohibiting the use of public funds for personal purposes.

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Hawaii County Councilman Greggor Ilagan plans to introduce legislation aimed at further clarifying the county law prohibiting the use of public funds for personal purposes.

The bill was drafted in response to a recent audit report detailing misuse of county purchasing cards, or pCards, by Mayor Billy Kenoi’s office and the county Department of Liquor Control. If passed, it would amend the Hawaii County Code relating to travel and other expenses by county employees.

Ilagan said that in recent months, constituents have questioned what action he would take to address the pCard issue, but his plan was to wait until the audit was complete and implement its recommendations.

“This is me following through with what I said,” he said of his bill.

The Hawaii State Constitution and Hawaii Revised Statutes prohibit the personal use of public money and property. Ilagan’s bill simply would add to the county code the words “no exception involving public funds shall be authorized without a public purpose,” which he says would leave no doubt as to the responsibility that county has to uphold the public’s trust.

Councilwoman Margaret Wille said she appreciates Ilagan starting the conversation, but the proposed bill is not nearly enough.

“It’s really sort of a do-nothing,” she said, adding it simply attempts to clarify current policy.“I’m not impressed.”

Instead, Wille said she intends to introduce her own legislation requiring all pCard records to be posted online for public review.

“I think we need to do more,” she said.

Ilagan said he’s open to other council members’ ideas and feedback, and expects additional bills related to pCards will be introduced.

Peter Sur, an aide for Ilagan, said he expects the bill to be taken up during the Aug. 18 committee meeting, but there has not yet been confirmation from Council Chairman Dru Kanuha’s office.

News of Ilagan’s proposal comes a week after an audit found 164 transactions totaling $29,961 that did not follow county policy, had a questionable public purpose and might have violated state law. In the 27-page report, Legislative Auditor Bonnie Nims outlined several recommendations to address gaps in the existing pCard policy, including that the council revise the language of the county code to bring it in line with state law.

Kenoi’s pCard use became the focus of an ongoing investigation by the state attorney general after Big Island newspapers reported he used the card for personal expenses, including visits to Honolulu hostess bars. The audit concluded it appears the mayor’s office was “not always held to the same requirements as other departments.”

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Several other council members, including Kanuha and Karen Eoff, said they support Nims’ recommendation to clarify the county code to address gaps in existing policy.

Email Chris D’Angelo at cdangelo@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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