‘I’M JUST THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’
For more than a quarter century, the nonprofit organization Wailuku Main Street Association has employed Jocelyn Perreira as its executive director. Her name and that of WMSA–which has long subsisted on a steady diet of County of Maui funds, to the tune of $243,000 a year or so–have been intertwined for just as long. As have stories of her running WMSA meetings as well as bullying citizens and public officials.
Make no mistake: all that time, Perreira has been running WMSA. For years, county officials, former WMSA board members and other officials at various nonprofits around the island have made this perfectly clear. She may be ducking the press and court appearance (like that which took place in Judge Joseph Cardoza’s courtroom on Dec. 5) these days, leaving WMSA Board Chairman Tom Cannon to twist in the wind as the public face of the embattled organization, but through it all, Perreira was the one calling the shots.
In May, Perreira testified under oath to Deputy Attorney General Hugh Jones as part of the state’s investigation into allegations of mismanagement and malfeasance at the public charity. On Nov. 30, Jones included a verbatim transcript of her testimony as part of his latest court filing, making it a matter of public record. After reading all 111 pages of it, I’m compelled to paraphrase Jose Ferrer, who played the sarcastic attorney in The Caine Mutiny:
You should have read her testimony! She never even heard of the Wailuku Main Street Association!
One longtime observer of WMSA who has closely watched the growing legal troubles surrounding the organization and read through Perreira’s testimony told me he counted more than 30 instances of Perreira blaming board members or other WMSA staffers for matters that were rightly her responsibility. There are numerous examples where she seems to be quite literally squirming under the questioning of what she knew about a whole manner of problems at the organization. Here are three that leaped off the pages.
At one point, Jones and Perreira go back and forth on the issue of investment income–whether the organization had it, as was disclosed on their Form 999 tax returns to the IRS, and how much. It’s a critical question in determining what exactly WMSA did with all that county grant money they’ve been taking. But Perreira said the organization’s auditor–who filled out the WMSA tax returns–had told her that there was no WMSA money invested, which Jones found impossible to believe (in the following exchanges, Q is Jones and A is Perreira):
Q: The woman who says you don’t need an investment policy because you have no investment income is putting investment income on your 990 form?”
A: That’s out of my realm, sir. I’m just the executive director. That’s not an area of my knowledge and expertise.
Get the idea? Perreira was “just” the executive director. Indeed, reading through her testimony, it’s a wonder she had any duties at all.
Of course, Perreira wasn’t the only staffer at the WMSA. For many years, Stacy Purdy–Perreira’s daughter–worked in the office as well. In his questioning, Jones showed that for about a month, this allegedly violated the organization’s anti-nepotism policy (which the WMSA board amended a month after Purdy started working for them). It was in a discussion of Purdy that Jones called Perreira on her constant handing off responsibility to others:
Q: It just seems to me during your testimony, you don’t want to be responsible for very much of this organization you’ve been ahead [sic] of for 26 years.
A: Excuse me, this involved a relative, and I did not want any–
Q: Your daughter. Let’s be honest, your daughter.
A: I’m not being dishonest.
Of course, Perreira didn’t always testify that others were at fault for whatever issue Jones raised. On at least one occasion, she actually testified that she was, indeed, the responsible party. This matter, which concerned the legality of WMSA staff and board members testifying before Maui County Council meetings and such (which people like Perreira and Cannon point to as examples of great actions taken by the organization), had my head shaking for quite some time:
Q: Whose responsibility as [sic] WMSA is it to draft testimony per County Council and subcommittee meetings?
A: It depends. Sometimes it’s the board chair. Sometimes it’s a committee person that’s involved. Most of the time, it’s me.
Q: Do you know that providing testimony on County Council measures and subcommittee measures of the Council is considered lobbying for purposes of the Internal Revenue Code?
A: We educate. We don’t lobby.
Q: Do you know the testimony before a legislative body is considered lobbying for purposes of the Internal Revenue Code? I’m just asking if you know that or not. Do you know that?
Next up, Cannon provides sworn testimony to Jones in February. I can’t wait.
COUNTY SLAMS UKE FEST WITH $5,000 FINE
So the County of Maui is busting Kenneth Martinez Burgmaier because his Paia Uke Festival last month didn’t have the correct permits.
“We have been fined $5000 for our FREE 1st Annual Paia Hawaiian Ukulele Festival by the Mayor Alan Arakawa’s Planning Department,” Martinez Burgmaier emailed various community members on Dec. 8. He added that a voicemail message left by County Planning Director Will Spence two days before the event saying “just keep the commercial end on the commercial side” exonerated event organizers.
Except the county also sent Martinez Burgmaier a letter saying the Paia location the event was using definitely needed permits. And Spence says the Planning Department has been going over various permitting issues with the landowner for 18 months, but was also open the day after Thanksgiving and could have processed the needed event permits.
Remember, our society requires a permit to do pretty much anything. These permits protect us from harmful development, but they can also shackle those who want to provide entertainment and culture.
Sure, it looks like Martinez Burgmaier erred. But that doesn’t mean he deserves $5,000 in fines.