State senator asks for federal investigation of Hawaiian Home Lands agency
SA: … State Senate Minority Leader Kurt Fevella is asking the U.S. Justice and Interior departments to investigate the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands on claims that it has mismanaged its funds and misled the public and legislators.
Fevella, at a news conference Monday at the state Capitol, said DHHL hasn’t spent its legislative funds appropriately to address the more than 28,000 Hawaiians still awaiting homestead lots. A point of contention for Fevella (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point) was the agency’s proposal to build a casino on DHHL land to generate money for the program. Fevella helped lead community protests in opposition to the plan to grant an exception to Hawaii’s ban on gambling, which ultimately died in the Legislature.
Fevella and Robin Danner, chairwoman of the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations, the largest statewide organization of beneficiaries, said the DHHL has sufficient funds to build more homestead lots and that the agency’s money and land should be directed toward putting Hawaiians back on their lands, not invested or used for any other purposes. They said money is not the problem. Rather, the mismanagement of DHHL’s funds has stalled building more homestead lots, they said….
Fevella said he sent letters to the local offices of the Justice and Interior departments and will seek help from Hawaii’s congressional delegation to expedite an investigation. He also plans to introduce three bills next year that seek to make policy changes to DHHL. Although the bills did not pass in previous sessions, Fevella said he will make some changes designed to give the bills more traction. Danner added that three of the most important proposals in the bills would require that five of the nine Hawaiian Homes commissioners be beneficiaries on the wait list, establish a statewide interagency council for department heads to discuss ways to advance the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, and separate the DHHL director and commission chairman roles….
read … State senator asks for federal investigation of Hawaiian Home Lands agency
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CHAIR AILĀ STATEMENT ON PERCEIVED MISMANAGEMENT OF LEGISLATIVE FUNDS
News Release from DHHL, Jul 26, 2021
(Kapolei, Oʻahu) – Hawaiian Homes Commission Chair William J. Ailā, Jr. has issued a statement in response to Senator Kurt Fevella’s press conference on the perceived mismanagement of legislative funds by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL).
“The Hawaiian Homes Commission has followed the authorizations outlined in the Hawaiʻi State Legislature’s 1995 Act 14 settlement to establish an endowment to serve the Trust. At the time, the legislature was very deliberate in wanting DHHL to seek out a steady availability of capital to fund the program. It’s the Department’s intention to fully implement this authorization and continue to work with the State to complete Act 14 outstanding land transfers.
“Since 1995, DHHL has used Act 14’s financial settlement to develop over 4,000 new homestead lots and now has over a half a billion dollars in private lending contingent liability that it is responsible for. It is our fiduciary kuleana to be sure the trust has enough money in its reserve to mitigate this risk against the State.
“This Commission, as well as previous Commissions, has acted prudently in its fiduciary responsibility of this trust to ensure that homestead lots are developed in perpetuity.”
At the close of the 2021 legislative session, DHHL was allocated $78 million for Capital Improvement Projects. While short of the $460 million sufficient sums request made by the Department, the allocation represents the largest legislative budget for Capital Improvement in the history of the program.
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