Board hopeful admits to theft
Kris DeRego, a Windward O'ahu candidate for the state Board of Education, last year admitted to his former boss that he had stolen money and wine from a liquor store where he briefly worked.
Three women have also secured temporary restraining orders against DeRego, 24, after he allegedly continued to call, e-mail and send text messages after they requested he stop. DeRego agreed to the orders but insisted he had not harassed his former girlfriend and two of her friends.
DeRego partly denied the theft allegations yesterday and said he had made a written admission last year to quickly resolve a dispute and avoid legal costs. He said he had also paid restitution and forfeited numerous bottles of expensive wines to the store.
"No theft has occurred, if for no other reason than because I paid full restitution for everything that was requested by the store," DeRego said.
George O'Hanlon, manager of the Liquor Collection at Ward Warehouse, said DeRego's mother had paid about $1,800 and returned wine DeRego stole. "We made a verbal agreement with (DeRego's mother) not to prosecute if this was taken care of," O'Hanlon said. "But what I didn't agree to was, if he was going to run for office, keeping my mouth shut and not warning the people of Hawai'i about who he was."
In a resignation letter to the store, DeRego admitted to the theft allegations but disputed the amount he owed. Yesterday, he stopped just short of admitting that he had stolen cash, but denied stealing wine.
"At the time of my resignation, I was accused of removing $200 from the till," he said. "I do not refute this allegation but will say that the money was paid back immediately as part of a settlement with (them)."
DeRego accused O'Hanlon of waging a "personal vendetta" against him and said part of the dispute stemmed from an arrangement that allowed employees to take home merchandise and have the cost deducted from their pay.
He said the store had done an inventory check and accused him of taking everything that could not be accounted for. But O'Hanlon said he only charged DeRego for items clearly traced to him, and that DeRego had falsified records to indicate that he had paid for many bottles of wine that he stole.
DeRego said the problems "occurred during a difficult period in my life, when people with whom I had intimate relationships were trying to destabilize my life, much like some people are trying to do now."
An anonymous person has e-mailed seminude photographs, purportedly of DeRego, to several news organizations. DeRego said the photos are computer-altered fakes that show his head superimposed on someone else's body.
DeRego said he hopes the various problems do not affect voters' opinions of him, and that he has no intention of withdrawing from the BOE race.
The Honolulu Advertiser yesterday notified DeRego that it has withdrawn its endorsement of him. Today's Focus section, which contains his name, was printed in advance.
"Recent revelations involving Mr. DeRego have caused us great concern," said Jeanne Mariani-Belding, The Advertiser's editorial and opinion editor. "I have spoken to Mr. DeRego and let him know that under the circumstances, we no longer can support his candidacy."