A few minutes before 5pm last night, Wailuku Main Street Association (WMSA) Board Chairman Tom Cannon emailed the following four-page “initial response” to Hawaii Deputy Attorney General Hugh Jones’ devastating Aug. 30 report on alleged malfeasance and mismanagement at the 26-year-old non-profit (click here to see Jones’ report).
“I’m told you called our attorney [Kevin Jenkins] for a statement regarding AG Jones’s 8/30/12 letter about WMSA,” Cannon emailed me. “Please find attached an initial response. We would appreciate your considering our comments and your fair handedness in reporting on this.”
The words “fair handedness” certainly caught me off guard, since the last time Cannon wrote to me, it was to call me “boneheaded” in this online comment on my blurb on how WMSA won the coveted “Best County Blunder” title in our 2012 Best of Maui reader’s poll.
Anyway, Cannon’s response–which I’m reprinting below in its entirety–isn’t all that surprising. For the last year, Cannon and WMSA Executive Director Jocelyn Perreira have explained their troubles as due to an ever-expanding web of conspirators bent on their destruction: “disgruntled” former WMSA board members, “biased” journalists (such as myself and former Maui News reporter Ilima Loomis), county officials like Planning Director William Spence and, now, a deputy attorney general.
Cannon’s blistering letter–literally addressed to “whom it may concern”–though highly defensive and basically denying every bad thing Jones or anyone else has ever said about his organization, has a sad, unreal air about it. Indeed, the WMSA Wailuku office is nearly empty now, and Cannon says in his letter that the County of Maui’s refusal to release a $243,000 grant has forced to organization to “lay off” Perreira, though she was clearly still working in her office yesterday.
Anyway, here’s Cannon’s letter:
4 September 2012
To: Whom it may concern.
Re: Hugh R. Jones, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, (AG Jones) letter dated August 30, 2012, regarding the completion of his administrative inquiry into the operations of the Wailuku Main Street Association/Tri-Isle Main Street Resource Center.
The Board of Directors of Wailuku Main Street Association (WMSA)/Tri-Isle Main Street Resource Center has not had an opportunity to thoroughly review and discuss the letter noted above yet, however an initial review is in nearly complete disagreement with its analysis and conclusions. Through out the handing of this matter by AG Jones, we have increasingly felt the administrative inquiry was not undertaken in an impartial manner, but
rather with bias that became more and more evident as time progressed. Notwithstanding AG Jones’ erroneous information and conclusions, there have been many changes to what is required of non-profits over our 27-year history, and we have already done various things AG Jones suggests in his “Remedial Measures” to keep current. What is clear from the report is that there is no missing money, no malfeasance, no misappropriated funds, and our history shows consistently clean yearly audits from no less than five notable auditing firms, including an A-133 Management Audit that helped the organization set the direction and safeguards for financial accountability. We will be responding to AG Jones’ erroneous information and conclusions point by point in the future, but wish to point out two facts immediately that clearly evidence the bias of AG Jones:
1. Although AG Jones contends that his inquiry is completed, he never once requested the input or questioned any existing officer (or even existing member) of the WMSA Board of Directors. Rather, he only questioned a disgruntled former employee and disgruntled FORMER Board members, who we have shown him to be biased, self-serving, unknowledgeable [sic] about our Program, and who were on the Board only briefly, missing the majority of meetings during their brief tenure, abusing our Board proxy process, and refusing required Program orientation and education.
2. AG Jones has refused to respond to repeated requests from our attorney to explain why he is in possession of WMSA property not included in his subpoena (but used in his interrogation of our Executive Director) that was STOLEN from WMSA’s office and reported stolen to the Maui Police Department (ref.: MPD No. 12-027312). Instead of being presumed innocent by the AG inquiry, WMSA was presumed to be guilty in the beginning, was not allowed to cross-examine our detractors, and stolen materials are now possessed by the AG and were used in his inquisition. We want these stolen materials returned immediately and have asked for them repeatedly. How can a public official use stolen property without consequence, then when questioned, retaliate with his baseless negative letter. This
is abuse of power.
It seems readily apparent to our Board that AG Jones has worked in concert with the Maui Planning Department, to which all of the disgruntled former Board members he is relying upon are beholden. His conclusions are based on the unsworn comments of a disgruntled former employee, who apparently conspired with two or more disgruntled former Board members who were briefly elected officers using proxy votes (that in retrospect) they were not legally entitled to. AG Jones’ letter rebukes the misuse of proxies by our WMSA Board, but fails to note that the only votes that were affected by this misuse of proxies, were the votes in favor of his “witnesses” becoming WMSA officers. The fact is, these disgruntled were
not acting in the best interests of our non-profit corporation, as required by HRS 414D-149, but rather in their own self-interests.
Most egregious in AG Jones’ letter is his criticism of our Executive Director (ED) who has been an outstanding WMSA employee for 26-plus years. It is highly unlikely that we could find a qualified successor to our ED. She has been described by the Hawaii State Preservation Officer has being the most knowledgeable person in the state on Hawaii’s tailored Main Street® program, and a “leader in Hawaii for the preservation of small towns”. She is a 4th generation Mauian who has a small business background including shopping center management, real estate, small business ownership, and extensive community leadership experience. She was president of the Maui County Council of Community Associations, a leader in the Decision Maui process, a Community Plan Advisory Committee Member, a Maui Redevelopment Agency Commissioner, and has participated in several issue-oriented Mayoral & Council Task Force groups dealing with Smart Growth, Open Space, Technology, Visitor Initiatives, and the Iao Theater Preservation & Reuse effort. Our local non-profit Main Street Program has received numerous awards including the prestigious Take Pride in American Award for Small Town Beautification, presented to our ED at the White House in 1987 by President Reagan for efforts in establishing and beautifying vacant pocket parks. She is a recent Community Work Day Awardee [sic] in 2009 for the Revitalization & Preservation of Small Towns and was honored in 2011, for her work with Keep America Beautiful in its efforts to establish Keep the Hawaiian Islands Beautiful. Over the years, our ED has been educated by her near-constant association with WMSA’s volunteer Architects (such as myself and many others), Urban Planners, Landscape Architects, Engineers, Bankers, Lawyers, etc., etc., and has become Hawaii’s premier small-town specialist. We do not anticipate being able to find any other qualified successor to our ED. She has received consistently outstanding evaluations, and AG Jones has been notified of this, as well as the recent votes of confidence by the Board for our ED. The Board has already discussed and supported a renewal of her contract. Our ED is the main reason most of the Board (and other volunteers) serve. She is honest and capable of taking an incredible ration of shit to protect our local community, local ways, and local economies. In a word, she is irreplaceable, however due to a breach of contract by a primary WMSA client who has not paid us for work preformed; the Board was forced to temporarily lay our ED off (effective soon) due to our lack of sufficient funds. This makes AG Jones’ suggestion that we terminate our ED a moot point. Other office staff have also recently been temporarily laid off, also due to lack of funding, and not at all due to any other reason.
WMSA recently received an exclusive license to use the Main Street® name in the state of Hawaii for the next 20 years. In working up to this legal settlement, it became apparent to the Board that Planning Director Spence (PD) and/or certain subordinates had been communicating with the National Main Street Center to encourage our demise. Not long after we settled with National for lifetime use of “Main Street” in our name, and 20 years exclusive use in Hawaii, we were informed of the PD having a secret meeting with newly-elected officers of our Board. This meeting was not only secret, but it was also in direct opposition to and specifically contrary to a Board vote, and contrary to HRS 414D-149. Shortly after this meeting, the two officers both resigned in the face of Board expulsion. Shortly after that, both former officers, along with others beholden to the PD, enlisted the help of AG Jones. In order to counteract the hard-won results of our settlement, they now seek to annihilate WMSA, beginning with our outstanding ED. AG Jones seems to have been wittingly or unwittingly enlisted into the PD’s Plan B for WMSA’s demise.
We appreciate the understanding and support of our long-time friends, and send this out to you to keep you informed.
Thomas R. Cannon, A.I.A., Architect, and Chair, for the Board