Thursday, April 24, 2008


Shakeup in Iwilei begins

by Larry Geller

The building owned by the Weinberg Foundation at 418 Kuwili St., right between the two IHS homeless shelters, is home to several non-profit organizations. A couple of them receive their funding primarily from the federal government. The millions trickle in, something like the rain that has occasionally dripped through the ceiling of this former warehouse converted to offices.

The money has been flowing for years and years. It comes to the state as provided by different federal laws, and for more than a decade (actually 15 or more years) has simply been doled out to the same agencies. Kind of a pass-through by the Department of Human Services.

The ceiling of the Hawaii Center for Independent Living (HCIL) has more than some old water spots. The last time I was in there it sported so many CCTV cameras that it would be the envy of any FBI agent. Imagine knowing everything each employee was doing all day long, which clients they saw, what they said, how many times a day they put their fingers in their noses. All on recording, presumably.

How can anyone work under those conditions? Guess what—maybe they can't.

Following testimony at the Legislature (see this KGMB story), investigations are underway. There will be an audit. What's going on?

The testimony indicated that little in the way of customer service may be happening, but there's this (from the KGMB story):

Theft, Fraud and mismanagement - those are some of the allegations against a Hawaii non-profit organization. Now the state is getting involved in the investigation.

The Hawaii Center for Independent Living helps people with disabilities have equal pportunities in life and helps people live on their own but dozens of people say it's not living up to its mission.

An investigation appears long overdue, and I'm surprised it has taken this long. That so many people living with disabilities may have missed out on services that the federal and state money was supposed to provide is a true misfortune, should it be proven.

There's more to this than just the allegations against HCIL's executive director. Ultimately, a board of directors is responsibility for oversight of the entire operation of a non-profit. In too many organizations, however, the board is lax in its duties, or perhaps simply attends meetings and rubberstamps the actions of the ED. Often the ED exerts effective control over the board. This does not relieve the board of its responsibilities, but it happens all too frequently in the non-profit world. Sometimes board members simply enjoy the status of being on a non-profit board and having their names on the letterhead.

The investigation is not be limited to the audit that the Legislature is expected to request. According to State Senator Les Ihara, whose committee heard testimony from the public, HCIL's attorney and others, the state Attorney General is involved. After receiving the testimony, Sen. Ihara said that he has also been in contact with federal authorities, Senator Daniel Inouye and Congresswoman Mazie Hirono. Maybe the FBI will get to have a look through those cameras after all.

The shakeup will likely start with the HCIL board, which should have had knowledge of everything taking place in the organization.

An ounce of prevention would have helped, in this case, since reading the testimony indicates that problems may have been long-standing. The agencies receiving the federal money could have used some monitoring. They do file reports with the feds, but those are self-reports and you can imagine that they paint only the most glowing of pictures.

Prevention can start now. DHS has a responsibility to everyone served by the agencies whose money it distributes (and to those unable to get services they were entitled to receive) to review each and every one of the agencies, looking at their self-reports for accuracy and performing both fiscal and management audits.

Just because an agency has been receiving millions of dollars in federal funds year after year does not mean that the money is well-spent, as the audit of HCIL may demonstrate. Why wait for more trouble? DHS should step up to its responsibility in order to prevent future situations such as this.

Should they do so, I think we'll find that this shakeup, starting at the old warehouse in Iwilei, will be only the first step in a series of corrective actions, better late than never.


Oh, but the camera's were at least something... agree they SEEMED over the top. But now, the NEW ED (no background check done, or at least a background check that would indicate honesty and integrity) is living like a king, while the people needing (I mean receiving) services dwindles the ED eats(I mean EXPENSES) huge, gorging, culinary delights, more MAI TAI'S than Hawaiian people ever laughed at, while they go hungry and their humble programs die. The ED spends many thousands on no bid contracts for friends, buys endless electronic toyware, and gets paid directly for them, though they are purchased through the agency. (The so called BOARD heartily approves) Your post was right on, as far as the board members and their reasons for being on non-profit letterhead, but those were the 'good old days'. Now it's not even being covered up, just in your face fraud. In my opinion, it exemplifies the face of the nation, water spots aren't really there, you must be mistaken, it's art.

Second try at a post. Maybe this one will make it through? The article concerning the Weinberg Foundation and it's buildings at Kuwili st (did you know that there is an Olympic sized swimming pool, completely maintained, without a soul ever swimming in it?) This is one tiny bit of info that is not known by the public. The audit was so funny that when the boxes of returned documents were delivered, there was a party thrown. Ha Ha. The former director with all the camera's was said to be the cause of all stubbed toes, and oil spills. Another party thrown at her expense, that she had received only $17,000 for her 2 year long battle of a case of discrimination, though the so called 'junk yard dog HCIL attorney firm' was paid more than $100,000 to keep the settlement small enough to give it no merit.... Ah, America, and it's Foundations.

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