Marsha Joyner, 65, president of the Dr. Martin Luther King Day Coalition of Hawaii and high-ranking member of Hawaii’s Democrat Party, pled no-contest to second-degree theft charges, Sept. 8, for embezzling several thousand dollars from elderly tenants living in a Waikiki apartment unit where she was association president.

Before Judge Richard Perkins, Joyner agreed to the no contest plea in First Circuit Court on last Monday to “avoid negative publicity,” saying she did not want to make it any harder to raise funds for her coalition, which hosts Hawaii events, including the Martin Luther King Day Parade.

In response to a request for an interview with Hawaii Reporter, Joyner said in an email: “In response to your telephone call of Monday, Sept. 15, 2003, due to the fact that the case is still in progress, and on the advice of my attorney, I cannot comment at this time. I would be most willing to talk with you at some later date.”

The theft from the elderly residents, some who say they survive exclusively on their social security checks, reportedly occurred between 1997 and 2000 when Joyner was president of the three-story Kon Tiki condominium and owned one of the units.

Joyner, who served as one of four Hawaii electors in both the 1996 and 2000 presidential election and ran unsuccessfully in 2000 for a state Senate seat, was entrusted by the unit owners with $380 per month per unit, for 48 units in all.

In return, she was to pay utilities and lease rent for the 48 units, but instead, according to the current president of the association Carroll Henry, Joyner embezzled the money, as much as $135,000, with a partner, Grant Peters.

Joyner hired Peters, 55, as the building’s resident manager while she was president of the association, despite the fact that, according to Henry, Grant did not know what assets vs. liabilities were or much else about running a condo association or managing financials when Henry questioned him.

In fact, Henry, who owns 10 of the 48 units in Kon Tiki, says he became suspicious of Peters and why he was hired at the expense of a more competent resident manager being fired by Joyner, after questioning him about his background, experience, knowledge of business and condo operations.

The suspicion led Henry to request a copy of the financials of the association, which Joyner refused to give him. But Henry did not let the matter drop. He did obtain a copy of the financials, he realized Peters had changed the financial summary substantially before presenting it formally at a March 2000 association meeting, and demanded Peters be fired and the entire board of directors of five resign that night. Everyone on the board agreed to resign except Joyner, who was forced out before the meeting was over.

Henry, who was that night in March 2000 elected president, pursued a full-scale audit and investigation into the finances of Kon Tiki and what he learned was, as he put it, “quite disturbing.”

The Kon Tiki bank accounts had been completely drained of hundreds of thousands of dollars — $135,000 to be exact — with at least $18,000 going directly to Joyner’s now defunct company, Malenka O Hawaii. The utilities in the building had not been paid for months and were just a week or two from being shut off. And the payments for the leases on the property also had fallen far behind and were about to put the leases in default. If Joyner and Peters had been in charge just two more weeks, the association would have been bankrupt, Henry says.

Henry, who resides much of the year in San Francisco, put up his own money to save the residents’ homes until the stolen money was repaid through the insurance claim. He also filed a complaint with the Honolulu Police Department and made over 100 calls and visits at his own expense to ensure the police department followed up on the theft. Henry was motivated by a comment made to him by Joyner, who he says claimed she had too many high placed connections in Hawaii and was too politically powerful to be charged for the theft. The victims of Joyner and her partner, many who were desolate financially and in their 70’s and 80’s, also worried him, Henry says.

Henry, who also took it upon himself to warn voters in Joyner’s district about the theft by passing out fliers, says he was subsequently accused by some media supportive of Joyner and by members of her campaign, of working for her Republican opponent, incumbent Sen. Sam Slom.

A strong activist for the environment, Henry says he was surprised by the media’s reaction to the news about Joyner.

KITV’s political reporter Denby Fawcett was so antagonistic toward him and defensive of Joyner that Henry finally asked her why she was even bothering to look into the story. Jerry Drelling, then a reporter at KGMB Television, was more receptive to running a story and in fact sought permission to do so, but his news producer did not allow him to air the report.

This despite the fact that he told them he was not politically active, never voted in his life, did not support candidates from any party (especially Republicans) and offered extensive proof to support his statements and a list of victims.

Henry did not stop his campaign to get the word out about Joyner with television reporters. He also approached editors at both Hawaii daily newspapers, ”’The Honolulu Advertiser”’ and The ”’Honolulu Star-Bulletin”’ with all of the documentation on the case. Both papers essentially ignored the story, and ”’The Honolulu Advertiser”’ topped that by endorsing Joyner over Slom in the 2000 Senate election, even with the knowledge she was under investigation for a felony.

The Sierra Club and the public unions including the Hawaii Government Employees Association, also endorsed Joyner, along with many high-ranking Democrats who appeared in her campaign materials and sent out letters on her behalf, including U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and Democrat Party Chair Walter Heen. In turn, Joyner appeared in a campaign materials for Mayor Jeremy Harris.

But some who knew of Joyner’s background questioned the wisdom of these cross endorsements. Joyner, who is a member of several less known organizations supporting liberal causes, such as the Pacific-Asia Council of Indigenous Peoples, also has her own Web site claiming she is a “witch” entitled “About Me: On Being a Witch,” see http://home.switchboard.com/MarshaRose

On her Web site, which also has a picture of her, Joyner introduces herself by saying she is a witch who “belongs to an extinct culture of matriarchal rule.” She also talks about the “seething revolt of men” and how in the 4th century, men “killed more than 4 million women who were healers, midwives and practitioners of earth centered or nature tied religious rituals and branded them

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