by Andrew Walden
Why would a lawyer plead her client guilty of stealing over $14M worth of State-owned land and other assets?
If the lawyer is working for the LLCs owned by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the answer might be “to avoid an open records request.”
Honolulu attorney Kimberly Greeley, “represent(ing) Hi’ilei Aloha, LLC, Ho’okele Pono, LLC, and Hi’ipaka LLC” in a January 9 response to an open records request from Hawai’i Free Press claims:
“Sole title to the land comprising Waimea Valley was transferred to Hi’ipaka LLC (by OHA) in 2007. The State does not own the valley nor any of Hi’ipaka’s other assets…. Nor is Hi’ipaka operated or managed by the State…. In sum, the State does not control or direct any of the Companies’ activities or business affairs and does not provide any funding for the Companies. The Companies activities are not a required function of any government agency. The Companies are not, therefore subject to the provisions of the UIPA.”
Of course all of this is nonsense. Waimea Valley and all of the LLCs are still 100% owned by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The LLCs are State property and therefore completely subject to UIPA. OHA owns a total of six LLCs and OHA’s ownership is completely documented with the DCCA BREG at the links below:
Falsely pleading her clients guilty to multiple counts of grand theft ‘aina is an act of desperation if their ever was one. It might also be professional misconduct. What is Greeley trying to hide? What might be found if the LLCs are obligated to hand over their compete check registers to Hawai’i Free Press?
Office of Hawaiian Affairs financial statements record $13M in expenses attributed to Hi’ilei Aloha and Hi’ipaka since 2009. The partial record from IRS form 990s filed by some of the LLCs show extensive money transfers between the LLCs and fat salaries paid out to OHA insiders.
Hiilei Aloha has paid Mona Bernadino, a crony of ousted OHA Trustee Haunani Apoliona, a total of $613,108 in salary and $49,615 in “other compensation” between 2010 and 2014—the only years for which Hiilei Aloha’s 990s are available online. Projecting back to the foundation of Hiilei Aloha in 2007, Bernadino’s hidden salary may well exceed $1 million –making her one of the most highly compensated employees in OHA history. Total salaries paid by Hiilei Aloha between 2009-2014 are $6,015,922, according to their 990s.
Fewer 990s are available for Hiipaka LLC but records show that Richard Pezzulo was paid $145,917 in salary and $11,497 in other compensation in 2014. Pezzulo received $138,000 in salary and $6,625 in other compensation in 2013. In total, Hiipaka LLC paid $7,225,350 in salaries between 2011-2014, according to their 990s.
Pezzulo’s $145,917 would make him the second-highest –paid OHA employee compared to the OHA salaries listed in a 2016 news report. Bernadino’s $125K per year salary would make her the equal of recently-resigned OHA CFO Hawley Iona.
But salaries may not be the only thing OHA’s LLCs have to hide. If the LLCs view themselves as completely private entities, not property of the State of Hawaii, then the owners have no prohibition against self-dealing and nepotism. Who are their contractors? Which profitable Trustee-connected non-profit and for-profit corporations are receiving fat juicy contracts from the LLCs? Only the check register can answer these questions.
The 990s show big spending on “other expenses” by the LLCs: Hiipaka spent $7,663,603 between 2011-2014, Hiilei Aloha spent $4,804,672 between 2009-2014, and Hookipaipai spent $580,501 between 2011-2014.
Two of OHA’s LLCs became the subject of litigation in 2014. Ka Piko vs OHA, filed December 31, 2014 in Kauai's 5th Circuit Court, alleged that Mona Bernadino and her sub-cronies looted the Waimea, Kauai Makaweli Poi Mill via Hiilei Aloha LLC and its subsidiary Hiipoi while also using the two corporations as a conduit for transferring OHA assets to their own pockets. After Apoliona's alleged cronies were allegedly finished, one of OHA CEO Kamanao Crabbe's cronies allegedly took a turn.
Especially noteworthy: Line 137 of the complaint alleged "Defendant OHA indicated that because Defendant HI’IPOI was an LLC whose sole member was Defendant OHA, HIIPOI was exempt from the Hawaii State Public Agency and Meetings Laws, HRS Chapter 92, and from the Hawaii Uniform Information Practices Act, HRS Chapter 92F."
There have been other complaints as well. In 2008, the website OHA Lies explained:
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chair Haunani Apoliona, Administrator Clyde Namu‘o, Deputy Administrator Mona Bernardino, and Director of Land Management Jonathan Scheuer are programmatically and financially mismanaging Waimea Valley. According to OHA sources, Apoliona led a charge to release $4,567,511 of Trust funds to support Hi‘ilei Aloha LLC, Hi‘ipaka LLC, and Hi‘ipoi LLC in January 2008.
By June 2008, Hi‘ipaka LLC managers who are also state employees Namu‘o and Scheuer with the support of Apoliona and Hi‘ilei Aloha LLC manager and state employee Bernardino forced Hi‘ipaka LLC Executive Director Gary Gill to resign and announced in a June 5, 2008 report that Hi‘ilei Aloha LLC, Hi‘ipaka LLC, and Hi‘ipoi LLC are operating in a deficit. The June 5, 2008 report stated that the deficit was $614,809.70. This is absolutely appalling, because in January 2008 OHA under Apoliona authorized $4,567,511 of Trust funds to support Hi‘ilei Aloha LLC, Hi‘ipaka LLC, and Hi‘ipoi LLC of which $2,276,882 was released. In less than six months, OHA leadership lost $2,891,691.71 in Trust funds. Where did all the Trust funds disappear too?
Waimea Valley employees have publicly shared that the leadership of Apoliona, Namu‘o, Bernardino, and Scheuer has brought chaos and dysfunction to Waimea Valley. Furthermore, these individuals on numerous occasions have lectured employees to stifle the truth from being told. Waimea employees have publicly stated, “Waimea Valley needs to be saved again, only this time OHA’s beneficiaries will need to save the Valley from OHA itself.”
Nine years later, we are still trying to find out where all the money went.