TOM CANNON STAYS CLASSY AS HE RESIGNS FROM WMSA
It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when the non-profit Wailuku Main Street Association (WMSA) was a respected, helpful voice in the development of Maui’s small towns. But these days, with the state Attorney General’s investigation of the organization (which began after WMSA officials refused to give a clear accounting to the County of Maui of how they were spending the nearly quarter of a million dollars in county tax dollars they received every year), eye-opening court testimony from former WMSA Exec Director Jocelyn Perreira and lawsuits from both the county and their former Wailuku landlord, the only question most people around here have now is why the thing still exists.
Well, those days are over. According to new documents filed on June 25 in Maui’s Second Circuit Court, all remaining WMSA directors–including combative Chairman Tom Cannon–have resigned. The documents say there’s nothing left of the organization except an accounting of the $13,000 or so in remaining assets that belong to the county–the exact location of which Cannon refused to disclose, even when placed under oath by Deputy Attorney General Hugh Jones.
Buried in the 32 pages of documents filed by Jones is Cannon’s official letter informing Jones of his resignation, which he apparently sent on June 17. For fun, I’m reprinting the letter below, word for beautiful word. You’d think that someone in Cannon’s position, who now finds himself overseeing the complete destruction of the decades-old WMSA, would take stock of the disaster with at least some humility.
But not Cannon. In fact, it’s almost comforting to see that even now, he still denies (with great vehemence and anger) any and all wrongdoing and insists he’s the victim of a vast political conspiracy:
“Dear Mr. Jones,
“As I informed you by prior email, I, along with the rest of the WMSA Board, have resigned. This is what you wanted and now you have it. What happens now that you have crushed a 28-year worthy non-profit and proven cost-effective advocate for local concerns, for no valid reason (please reference my prior +/- 100 pages of communication regarding WMSA on behalf of the Board)? You were on a politically-motivated mission to kill WMSA, and you achieved your mission, with no valid cause. You are a legal pit bull, who eats any non-profit that gets out of line with the political powers that be, by draining their coffers and by fierce legal intimidation until they finally evaporate. Good job, but one without any trace of moral redemption. Although I have resigned from the Board, please consider me an interested party in your further actions on this matter. It will be interesting to see how you attempt to rationalized [sic] this travesty of justice, and deal with the two outstanding baseless lawsuits against WMSA.
“Sincerely, Thomas R. Cannon, former volunteer.”
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MAYOR APOLOGIZES FOR OLD WAILUKU POST OFFICE MESS
This morning, Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa walked up to a lectern in his office’s ninth room conference room–where two County Councilmembers Bob Carroll and Don Couch, numerous staffers and a few members of the media were gathered–and apologized for the “miscommunication” concerning the demolition of the old Wailuku Post Office that may lead the County Council to launch a formal investigation. The statement was brief, mostly because Rod Antone, the mayor’s spokesman, said that Arakawa had to be in Wailea at 9am to meet Governor Neil Abercrombie, who was there to sign a few Maui-related bills. There were no questions from the assembled reporters.
“As the mayor I take full responsibility for this situation,” Arakawa said. “We were so intent on meeting with councilmembers personally and getting their individual approval that we forgot some of the more formal aspects of the process. But rest assured that we are taking steps to make sure not to repeat this mistake.”
For about two years, Arakawa and his aides briefed the Maui County Council, both informally and in public hearings, about their plans to demolish the old Wailuku Post Office and build a new, larger office building on the site as part of a new civic center campus (see our June 27 cover story “Is The Maui County Council Nuts?” which details the public records concerning these discussions). Then in early February, as the building was coming down, Councilmember Mike White suddenly decided that the administration had never told the council how they’d pay for the demolition. Even though the council just appointed a new County Auditor, a majority of the panel is considering running the investigation themselves.
Though Arakawa said he accepted responsibility for the matter, I couldn’t help but notice the subtle way in which he used the press conference to cast doubt on the trustworthiness of various councilmembers.
“I have already instructed my staff that all future communication between the administration and the council must be documented,” Arakawa said. “Although we look forward to our one-on-one discussions with councilmembers, we realize that we cannot rely solely upon informal meetings. The record leading up to each decision must be clear and concise in order to minimize misunderstandings.”
Arakawa said that he had hoped more council members would be there, but the presence of just Carroll and Couch wasn’t at all surprising, as they represent two of the three members (along with Gladys Baisa) who have so far publicly opposed an investigation into the matter. The council will vote on a full investigation into the demolition at their July 5 hearing.
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UNFUNDED LIABILITIES LIVE!
And now a quick word about a subject I know is near and dear to all your hearts: unfunded liabilities. The Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System pension fund had a $10.9 billion net liability in the fiscal year that ended in 2011, according to a story in the July 1 Honolulu Star-Advertiser. That figure represented 132.5 percent of the state’s budget that year, meaning the government took in far less revenue than it needed to even begin paying off the pension benefits it owes to retired state workers.
Such debt means a bad credit rating for the state (which is worse off than 45 other states), and that means taxpayers have to contend with higher interest rates when paying off state bonds. It also means that in the coming years the state will likely have to cut spending on social services that assist the poorest people in society.
“Earlier this year an actuarial report of Hawaii’s system said the pension fund was in its worst shape since at least 1980 with an $8.4 billion shortfall,” the story helpfully noted. But have no fear–a fix is right around the corner: “Accumulating enough money in the system to pay all benefits due qualified recipients would take 30 years, the report said.”
Well, in geologic time, that is.