Just when you thought that giant heap of hurt the Wailuku Main Street Association (WMSA) went and leaped into couldn’t get any bigger (and that heap already includes a subpoena from the State Attorney General’s office and a Dec. 5 court date), we’ve obtained a couple letters from October showing the county’s most controversial nonprofit has threatened to sue the County of Maui (click here to read the letters).
In mid-October, Maui County Planning Director Will Spence asked (once again) for WMSA Board Chairman Tom Cannon to provide a lot of details about what his organization has been doing with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds the county has been sending their way each year. The county also refused to pay the association’s $243,000 grant for this year (this decision was made very easy after Deputy Attorney General Hugh Jones wrote a scathing report a few months ago ripping WMSA for a wide variety of “mismanagement” issues, at least one of which (dealing with a rather stupid political campaign contribution) could get them into serious trouble with the Internal Revenue Service.
On Oct. 18, Cannon sent a reply to the Maui County Corporation Counsel. It’s written in his trademark neener-neener fashion to which WMSA observers have long grown accustomed:
“[W]e can only conclude that the County of Maui Planning Department has no intention of complying with the financial obligations set out in our contract for Grant 3382, as evident in Mr. Spence’s letter. WMSA will be seeking legal counsel and filing suit against the County of Maui.”
See? The state AG is subpoenaing the WMSA, so WMSA is turning around and suing the county. It’s all fair, right?
The Maui News has a good story on the letters, which you can read here, but it seriously downplays the frothy anger and unintentional humor that boils around in Cannon’s Oct. 18 letter. To wit:
“We feel at this time that it is not appropriate to correspond with your department on this subject as Wailuku Main Street Association is currently in litigation,” Cannon wrote.
“Litigation”? Like a lawsuit? A search of the Hawaii court dockets turned up exactly one case involving WMSA: state Attorney General David Louie’s Oct. 12, 2012 petition to get the association to comply with a subpoena.
When I asked Cannon for clarification, he emailed me seven web definitions of the word “litigation” (most of which defined it vaguely as “legal action”) and attached a letter he wrote back in July awarding me a coveted “Best Bone-Headed Non-Journalism Award.”
But let’s assume that Cannon just didn’t want to mention that the state AG has subpoenaed his ass and decided to use the softer term “litigation” instead. Almost sounds prudent that he wouldn’t want to give up any goods. But then Cannon continues:
“In good faith, we once again state that to require significantly more details from a grant-in-aid with necessary safeguards in place is something entirely new and a definite change in the agreed upon rule. To suddenly change what is required midstream is not what should be expected from an administrator of a grant-in-aid that was previously scrutinized by the Council’s Budget Committee Chair and Corp Council [sic].”
Never mind the fact that the “scrutiny” Cannon mentions never actually occurred. Can you taste the venom in Cannon’s words? Hey, I’d be pissed too if I was him.
Think about it: for decades, that organization has gotten hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the county with no questions asked. Now, a bunch of meddling kids–reporters, former WMSA board members, the county Planning Director, the county Corporation Counsel, the state Attorney General, etc.–are going around, asking a bunch of questions, trying to find out what WMSA has been doing with all that county taxpayer money they’ve been getting.
Of course, it would have been nice if Cannon could spell “Corp. Counsel” properly in his letter to the Maui County Corporation Counsel. I mean, that’s just good manners. Especially considering that the Corporation Counsel’s office has the power to do things like “terminate” WMSA’s grant and “seek injunctive relief to insure the protection of any property that was purchased by Wailuku Main Street Association with County grant funds,” which is exactly what Corporation Counsel Patrick Wong told Cannon he would do in his Oct. 26 reply.