Money misspent on Maui could lead to more questions from authorities in the wake of KHON2’S Always Investigating report, and others may have crossed the line masking personal expenses as county costs.
Always Investigating has been digging into pCard spending statewide after Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi admitted to charging tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenses on his county credit card, or pCard.
On Tuesday, we told you about a Maui County public works supervisor whose pCard spending on pricey kitchen equipment got him into hot water.
We uncovered the case of Raynard Oshiro, who sources say swiped his pCard for appliance after appliance in what became a commercial-grade kitchen plus catering-type supplies at the Wailuku Public Works Baseyard.
So far, the county has been handling the public works case administratively after discovering tens of thousands of dollars were spent inappropriately.
We asked many, including Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa, to show us the kitchen taxpayers bought, but they say it’s all locked up as evidence.
“We don’t want to allow anyone to get in there and mess up whatever is there. We want to make sure that the evidence is clean,” Arakawa said.
Sources say the administrative investigation resulted in a deal with the county with Oshiro retiring and agreeing to pay the county back toward what he spent.
Over on the Big Island, where Kenoi paid back his personal charges, the county prosecutor deferred to the state, which is now investigating whether it was a crime.
So for the Maui kitchen, what says the Maui County prosecutor John D. Kim?
“The police would have to start from scratch and open up a criminal investigation,” he said. “Our investigators do not have the same investigative and law enforcement powers as other counties. We’ll call the police department, ask them if they’ve got on this case and if they haven’t, then I’ll leave it to them.”
Kim says the same procedure would apply for any others the administration has under investigation.
Maui police told Always Investigating in a statement: “We were made aware of this incident, however, we are not currently conducting any investigation into the matter. At this time it is too early to say that will be conducting an investigation.”
Police did not yet say whether the county provided them any additional details of their internal investigation.
Always Investigating has found more Maui County credit card spending under scrutiny.
At the same time we were denied copies of Oshiro’s pCard statements because of the investigation, the county also acknowledged it was investigating another publics works employee.
Officials denied us pCard statements of an automotive repair supervisor, who sources say is not connected to the kitchen, classifying his spending as also being under investigation.
Sources say the public works automotive repair employee also runs a business, an autobody repair service, that the county uses as a vendor. They say his pCard statements were being scrutinized to make sure there’s no duplication in charges, also that anything the county paid for got used on a county car.
He is still on the job and no wrongdoing was determined.
More names are on that pCard investigation list blocking our access to review the details: two parks department workers connected with the county maintenance area under the bleachers at the War Memorial stadium.
Sources say they regularly spent more than $10,000 a month on pCards on auto supplies, which is said to add up to more than the county fleet needs and more than can fit in the storage under the bleachers. The overflow gets left at the store it’s bought from.
Whistleblower allegations say personal cars were getting fixed up there too, not just the county fleet.
When Always Investigating told Wailuku area Maui County Councilmember about it, Mike Victorino said: “If there is wrongdoing, we will look and find the best resolution we can in settling this and making sure that whoever is responsible, first of all, the county is reimbursed, and secondly that whatever prosecution can take place, I’d like to see it take place.”
But what about stopping wayward spending before it starts?
“As technology is advancing, those are going to become fewer and farther between,” said Arakawa, “so I am very confident here in the County of Maui as we start working even further into the future with changing the types of computer systems that we have, most of these will be caught even at its infancy.”
“We’re going to look at how and what needs to change to protect the public and even protect the workers from having any type of abuse occurring,” Victorino said. “Hopefully within the next two or three months, after we get through with budget, we will be spending some time looking and reviewing our pCard policy here in the County of Maui.”
In most of these cases so far, public workers have been blowing the whistle on something amiss with spending patterns and catching it from the inside.
“I admire them,” Victorino said of those coming forward. “If they don’t come forward, we don’t know what’s going on and they may be our link to preventing this from happening in the future.”