Chairman’s Report Jan. 2020
I was out shopping recently when an old acquaintance accosted me to ask why the East Hawai’i Cultural Center (EHCC) was attacking its supporters. He politely listened as I explained the facts. Because this is a matter of concern to our community, we want our readers to hear those facts too.
EHCC is a cherished part of Hilo’s history. For five decades the Center has exhibited art, presented performances, and developed children’s educational programs.
In 2009, a retiring Chair led an effort to remove a substantial portion of EHCC’s cash, putting the money in a separate Trust that EHCC cannot control or access. The purpose, according to the Chair, was “to produce a reliable stream of income” for EHCC.
Since the Trust was formed, it has annually distributed, on average, less than 1 percent in interest earnings, and the trustees have denied repeated requests from multiple Boards for funds to support much needed repairs on the EHCC building. Learning this, an attorney with ties to EHCC commented that the insignificant income generated does not meet standards imposed by law, and that the EHCC Board would be negligent in our fiduciary duties if we did not act.
Well-intentioned people donated the money to EHCC that was used to create the Trust, believing it would be spent to strengthen EHCC. They didn’t intend their dollars to be held captive while the facility crumbles and keiki making art in our annex must be escorted across the parking lot to use the bathroom because the ancient, broken plumbing is unusable.
Seeing no alternative, our current Board engaged an attorney who proposed a simple, private solution: the current Trustees would step down and allow EHCC to appoint new Trustees.
The Trustees refused, leading us down the unpleasant path of litigation. We deeply regret this. None of EHCC’s board members harbors a grudge against any past or present Trustee who sincerely wants to further EHCC’s well-being.
We are confident that EHCC will emerge stronger and better prepared to serve the community regardless of whether, as we hope, the current Trustees resign, or we’re forced to litigate. We seek a flourishing EHCC, and know that all supporters of EHCC’s mission also desire this outcome.