NOTE: This column that was censored from OHA’s August 2012 Ka Wai Ola Newspaper but later printed in the October 2012 issue.
`Ano`ai kakou… As reported in the Pacific Business News (PBN) on July 11, 2012, the Gentry Pacific Design Center is being sold to the OHA. The sale of the 185,787-square-foot center at 560 N. Nimitz Highway is scheduled to close in August. The article did not disclose the sales price, but it reported that the building and its three parcels were assessed for about $28.8 million. [See “Office of Hawaiian Affairs to buy Gentry Pacific Design Center,” by Duane Shimogawa in the July 11, 2012 issue of Pacific Business News]
I am dismayed at the Trustees who authorized OHA to make this purchase. Trustee Oswald Stender first brought the proposal before the board almost a year ago and it was quickly dropped because OHA had to move into the building for it to make financial sense. None of the other Trustees wanted to move our headquarters there. I thought the deal was dead, but it came back before the board on May 17, 2012. The proposal failed again because Trustee Haunani Apoliona cited a conflict of interest because she was on the Board of Directors of the bank being considered to finance the purchase. OHA’s Board Counsel agreed and recommended that she not vote.
Then, on June 7, 2012, the Board Counsel opined that Trustee Apoliona, miraculously, no longer had a conflict of interest because the Fiscal Committee Chairman took out any references to Trustee Apoliona’s bank within the proposal. She was allowed to vote and together with Trustees Apo, Machado, Stender, and Waihee, authorized the CEO to make an offer to Gentry Pacific.
Trustees Hulu Lindsey, Robert Lindsey, and I voted against. Trustee Cataluna abstained. The four of us had serious concerns about the conditions under which OHA was required to make the purchase. They include:
(1) The Trustees has less than one week to review the preliminary due diligence and never got to see the final due diligence report until after the purchase was made.
(2) The Gentry Center is 80-years-old and could have problematic lead paint and asbestos.
(3) There are several areas that need to be made ADA accessible.
(4) The electrical system needs to be updated.
(5) The cost and resulting disruption of relocating OHA to the Gentry Design Center.
(6) The cost of retrofitting the Gentry Design Center as an office building.
Given these unknowns, I personally felt very uncomfortable with the purchase. During the community meetings regarding OHA’s Kakaako Makai settlement properties, we explained to the community that Kakaako would be a good place for economic development and a permanent home for OHA’s headquarters.
Now OHA is spending a great deal of money to renovate an 80-year-old building instead of using the same amount of money to build a brand new one. It makes absolutely no sense.
Even though the purchase seems to be a done deal, at least four Trustees continue to have serious concerns about how the building was purchased. I personally believe that purchasing the Gentry Design Center was not a fiscally prudent investment under trust law.