County sues Wailuku Main Street

WAILUKU — Maui County filed a lawsuit against Wailuku Main Street Association Inc./Tri-Isle Main Street Resource Center on Monday afternoon claiming the organization violated its county grant agreement and should return more than $11,000 worth of personal property bought with county funds and any remaining funding obtained under the agreement.

According the lawsuit in 2nd Circuit Court, the county on Oct. 26 terminated its grant agreement with the nonprofit, saying the organization breached its contract signed on Nov. 21, 2011, by refusing to provide information on how it was spending county funds.

The county is seeking the return of what it believes to be more than $11,000 worth of property purchased with county money. It also is seeking unspecified monetary losses in the lawsuit.

County Communications Director Rod Antone said the county cannot specify the amount of money it is seeking to recoup because the organization has never provided county officials with information on how much county money remains in WMSA’s coffers.

Monday’s lawsuit is yet another blow to the nearly 30-year-old nonprofit organization. WMSA faced an investigation by the state Attorney General’s office in 2012, and after a several month inquiry, the Attorney General’s office issued a scathing report. Preliminary findings said the organization may have violated county grant agreements and federal tax requirements, failed to follow its by-laws and did not keep close tabs on its executive director, whom the report said should be fired. Executive Director Jocelyn Perreira has since left the agency.

Earlier this year, the Attorney General continued to gather information and obtained an judicial order for WMSA Board Chairman Tom Cannon to submit further documents and to sit for a deposition.

In December, the organization’s former landlord Starr Properties LLC sought nearly $10,000 of unpaid back rent and other fees after the organization moved out of its offices at 1942 Main St. in Wailuku. Landlord Jonathan Starr said he felt the nonprofit did not give proper notice in vacating the lease. Starr still is waiting for payment.

WMSA Board Chairman Tom Cannon could not be immediately reached for comment on the county lawsuit Monday afternoon.

But throughout the state investigation, Cannon has maintained that WMSA has done nothing wrong. He added that WMSA has a record of clear yearly independent audits.

Cannon defended Perreira, saying she has done nothing wrong and that she left the organization on good terms. He also said in a letter to The Maui News that “repeated false and misleading information is what is harming us.”

For more on the story see Tuesday’s edition of The Maui News.