Hilo, Hawaii — In a split vote of four to five of the Hawaiian Homes Commission, the State Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Director, Jobie Masagatani, will move over a million dollars from a restricted trust fund account to an operating account. The trust funds represent interest payments made by Native Hawaiians on their home loans which Masagatani requested be moved and made available to pay for State government staff positions and consultants.
“I testified to the Commission to explain what DHHL was really asking them to do,” said Blossom Feiteira, President of the Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands (AHHL), an advocate for thousands of Hawaiians on the waiting list at DHHL. “These funds should not be used to pay for state government employees; they should remain in the trust fund account for beneficiaries to use to build their homes.”
Feiteira’s comments seem to be a surprise to some of the commissioners. Once it was understood what Interim Director Masagatani was doing, four commissioners broke away, and voted against the request. Commissioners Kahikina, Hopkins, Leeloy and Tassill, all voted against the move of beneficiary money to pay for state operating costs. Commissioners Damate, Ross, Artates, Aiu and Masagatani voted to transfer the funds.
“We object to this type of transfer; DHHL needs to get its fiscal house in order, live within its means and stop using our funds to pay for their employees,” Feiteira said. “It’s wrong on so many levels and has been going on for decades. It’s time to stop. Austerity is always put upon our people, but it’s time the state reduce its costs.”
According to Rodney Lau, DHHL administrative services officer, it’s been a common practice to transfer these interest revenues to the operating account every three months for DHHL to spend on itself. If the Commission fails to do so, 91 percent of the funds must automatically go toward a loan fund for beneficiary use, and only nine percent goes to the operating fund. Instead, DHHL is asking the commission to transfer 100 percent to operating costs and none to beneficiaries.
“When access to capital is one of the top reasons waitlist families have to defer a land award, this is just terrible,” said Dickie Nelson, AHHL vice president, also a plaintiff that sued DHHL to stop using lease revenues to pay state government expenses. “This is a no-brainer, if the Commission understands that the people are the priority, these funds should clearly be in a revolving loan fund for their use.”
The Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Land is dedicated to ending the Hawaiian Home Lands waiting list through policy, programming and assistance as it relates to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. For this effort, AHHL informs beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act on status, progress and opportunities on Homestead lands. AHHL is an advocate for policies at the local, state and federal government level relative to beneficiaries on the waitlist.
Submitted by TiLeaf Group, A Native Advocacy Firm