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Governor nixes $100,000 grant for Cabanilla cemetery project

By Derrick DePledge

LAST UPDATED: 3:28 p.m. HST, Jul 11, 2014

The Abercrombie administration will not release a $100,000 grant to the Ewa Historical Society to maintain the Ewa Plantation Cemetery because the community group lost its nonprofit status.

The Ewa Historical Society, led by state Rep. Rida Cabanilla (D, Ewa Beach-West Loch Estates), was granted tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service in 2009 but that status was revoked last year because the group did not file returns for three consecutive years.

Hugh Jones, a state deputy attorney general, informed Cabanilla in a June 30 letter that the group does not qualify to receive a grant since it is not a tax exempt organization. State law allows nonprofits recognized by the IRS to receive grants, along with for-profit corporations.

"I'm very, very, very disappointed," Cabanilla said, arguing that the grant money could have helped ensure that the cemetery is maintained.

The city, which has jurisdiction over the cemetery, assigned landscaping crews to the property last year. Cabanilla, explaining that she was responding to community concerns, applied for the grant on behalf of her group earlier this year.

Cabanilla said the Ewa Historical Society has applied to have its tax-exempt status reinstated by the IRS. She said she would ask that the $100,000 be released if the group were to regain tax-exempt status and if there is a new governor after this year's elections.

The Legislature approved the grant as part of the state budget, but many lawmakers said they were not aware of Cabanilla's close ties to the community group. While Cabanilla listed the involvement of her, her son and members of her office staff with the group on the grant application, she did not disclose those ties -- or publicly ask House leadership whether she had a potential conflict of interest -- before voting for the state budget.

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