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WHT reporter to be celebrated Dec. 9 for work cracking pCard case

Updated: 
November 21, 2017 - 12:05am

HILO — West Hawaii Today government reporter Nancy Cook Lauer will be honored for her work cracking the pCard case.

The Big Island Press Club will celebrate Cook Laurer as the club’s 2017 Torch of Light winner during its annual Christmas Luncheon from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at Hilo Bay Café.

“I have won a lot of state and even a few national awards in my career, but this one means the most because it’s in recognition of almost five years of persistent questioning, trying to get at the facts despite government stonewalling,” the 11-year WHT reporter said.

Cook Lauer is being recognized by the club for her work breaking the story of former Mayor Billy Kenoi’s misuse of a county-issued credit card, known as a purchasing card, or pCard.

Kenoi admitted before the county Board of Ethics in 2016 he violated the purchasing policy by misusing his county-issued purchasing card. He was acquitted during a criminal trial shortly before he termed out of office.

The state based its charges on 15 pCard transactions totaling $4,129.31 from 2011-14 that it argued were personal expenses or didn’t include receipts. Kenoi reimbursed 14 of them. The reimbursements occurred between four and 26 months after the transactions took place.

“Independent reporting is critical to providing the public necessary information so they can make informed decisions – especially concerning the people elected to represent them,” it said in a release announcing the award, adding it recognizes Cook Lauer’s dedication to journalism and in “keeping them honest.”

For 50 years, the club, BIPC, has championed the media’s role as the eyes and ears of the public. The luncheon will also serve as the annual meeting for BIPC members and elections will be held for officers and directors.

Founded in 1967, the club is the state’s oldest and most active press club with members from media outlets across Hawaii Island. Every year the organization provides more than $4,000 in scholarships to aspiring journalists.

“To be a reporter, you have to have a thick skin,” Cook Lauer said. “You can’t be all gaga over celebrities or top government officials. They’re people just like us! Especially in a small town, doing your job sometimes means coming face-to-face in the KTA with the guy you’ve been writing about. Awkward! Sometimes it means enduring hostility from officials and their supporters. But if you stick to the facts, back up your reporting with documents and write about the process and procedures instead of the personalities, you are performing a valuable public service. It’s the taxpayers’ money and they have a right to know how it’s being spent.”

Tickets are $30 for BIPC members, $35 nonmembers, and are available online at www.eventbrite.com.

Info: Visit www.bigislandpressclub.org.

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