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DHHL Mismanagement: Still Standing

A home built on Kauai ranch land breaks lease rules, but officials have let the violation go uncorrected

By Rob Perez

LAST UPDATED: 04:32 p.m. HST, Feb 12, 2014


MOLOAA, Kauai >> The violation was blatant and easy to verify.

Sometime before he became a Department of Hawaiian Home Lands commissioner in 2005, Stuart Hanchett built an unauthorized home here on 316 acres of ranch land he was leasing from the agency.

His month-to-month rental agreement, called a revocable permit, prohibited any residential use.

But when two Kauai beneficiaries in November 2010 raised the issue with the Hawaiian Homes Commission, while Hanchett was still a member, top administrators at the department did not investigate.

It would have been simple to confirm the violation.

A site visit and an online search of aerial photos — both of which the Star-Advertiser did recently — would have shown the home to be in the middle of DHHL property.

Darrell Young, the agency's deputy director, said DHHL checked Google maps in 2010, but the location of the home relative to the property boundaries was unclear. Up to that point the department was under the assumption that Hanchett had received permission to build the home on a neighboring, privately owned parcel, according to Young and Linda Chinn, the administrator who oversees the department's nonhomestead lease programs.

But instead of sending a staff member to the site to check on the location in 2010, the department apparently dropped the matter. And Chinn recommended that the commission approve Hanchett's request to convert the revocable permit to a 20-year license to a nonprofit he had just formed to take over a fledgling youth camp on the ranch.

Under the proposed deal, Hanchett's Pua­lani Foundation would have paid about 2.5 cents an acre per month for the first year, substantially less than the $1.84 he was paying at the time. After the first year, the rent would have increased to $1.84 for the next four years and to an undetermined level after that. The commission never voted on the proposal.

Today, Hanchett, 65, still lives in the home and ranches the land, which county records show is worth more than $8 million. He raises livestock and hosts occasional youth groups, including at-risk Native Hawaiian children, at the ranch.

Only after the Star-Advertiser began asking about the Hanchett home last month did the agency say it would investigate.

It offered no explanation on why it failed to do so before then, enabling Hanchett to continue living on the parcel.
Beneficiaries cite the Hanchett case as a prime example of what they say is a favoritism problem that taints the revocable-permit program and other aspects of DHHL's operations.

When the Star-Advertiser first asked DHHL about the home in April, Chinn said the location problem still was unresolved. "Whether that house is on our property, it's questionable," she said in an interview.

Yet the agency's Kauai land manager, Kaipo Duncan, who works for Chinn, already seemed to have answered that question several years earlier. In a November 2010 email, Duncan noted that the license agreement clearly stated that no residential use was permitted and that Hanchett had agreed to move off the property.

Asked about that email, Young said it didn't necessarily mean that DHHL had confirmed the existence of "an offending structure."

In response to the Star-Advertiser's inquiry, Young said Hanchett would get a letter from DHHL about the "alleged illegal dwelling" and, if shown to be true, would be asked to correct the violation. If that didn't happen, the permit would be terminated, Young said.

Hanchett, a retired airline worker, told the Star-Advertiser that he knew he wasn't allowed to build a home under the terms of the revocable permit, which was issued in April 2003. But he said he did so anyway, without telling DHHL, because of a persistent theft and vandalism problem that threatened to sink his ranching operation.

DHHL had told him he had to solve the problem himself, according to Hanchett. "The only option I had was to create a presence on the property itself," he added. "I did not know any other way to resolve that problem."

Hanchett said he knew all along that the home would never be his and that he would have to give it up whenever the revocable permit ended.

"I never intended to make this my permanent home," he said. "What I wanted to do was to serve the youth on the island. That was my primary reason. All I wanted to do was to give back to the Hawaiian community."

Asked what he would do if he's forced to give up his home, Hanchett had a quick response. "If that's what they require, I will do it," he said. "I love this property too much."

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peanutgallery wrote:
Entitlement always breeds corruption.
on May 5,2013 | 06:31AM
2_centz wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on May 5,2013 | 11:52AM
BIG wrote:
on May 9,2013 | 07:30AM
Ken_Conklin wrote:
Many thanks to Rob Perez for his investigative journalism. He has a long history of doing such reports for both the Star-Bulletin and the Advertiser. He is not afraid to look all the way down to the bottom of a situation and tell what he finds there.

DHHL is the closest thing we have in Hawaii to the Indian reservations on the mainland -- filled with corruption and nepotism. It's time to give DHHL leaseholders fee-simple ownership of the land under their homes, so they can get mortgages just like any homeowner and pass on their homes to their spouses or friends, or sell them, just like any homeowner, without regard to racial covenants.

on May 5,2013 | 06:59AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Ken if that happens, those land grabbers and greedy insiders will rape the "pastoral" leases for cents per acre. Then after all title clears, the next generation will sell "Gentlemen" ranches for millions.
on May 5,2013 | 10:48AM
allie wrote:
Really? You think Hawaiians are less competent when it comes to their own self interests than any other ethnic or racial group? Why the low expectations?
on May 5,2013 | 12:43PM
turbolink wrote:
Well that's an about face from you, on record multiple times making (compensated) comments stating exactly what you are questioning.
on May 5,2013 | 01:30PM
allie wrote:
well put
on May 5,2013 | 12:42PM
poidragon wrote:
Hey Ken: You should know by now that the Indian reservatons were set up by the Federal government to corral and pen in the Indian nations, so that the U.S. could continue their Westward expansion and take all the land for it'sefl! Every time some precious resource was found on Indian reservation land, the Federal government, moved the Idian people off of the land with such lame excuses so that they could harvest the resources for their own benefit; just like the Territorial republic did in Hawaii when they overthrew the Hawaiian Monarchy for their own greedy machinations!
on May 5,2013 | 04:59PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
"Only after the Star-Advertiser began asking about the Hanchett home last month did the agency say it would investigate."

Oh, Star-Advertiser, I could hug you right now!

This is what we need from you, asking hard questions and digging into government corruption and cover-ups. When you guys do your job, you're great. Please keep it up... and try it on Oahu next time.

on May 5,2013 | 07:11AM
puuloke wrote:
A simple solution is available for DHHL in the Hanchett matter - GPS. That's what Kamehameha Schools uses is cases where boundaries need to be determined.
on May 5,2013 | 08:01AM
bumba wrote:
People need to go to jail. Disgusting.
on May 5,2013 | 10:41AM
cojef wrote:
Good post, maybe and only than can you have transparency in the DHNL. Also, retroactively charge the culprits fair rental charges..
on May 5,2013 | 11:13AM
nitpikker wrote:
imagine what will happen if sovereignty is granted...
on May 5,2013 | 11:43AM
geralddeheer wrote:
How do you know? Aren't you profiling all Hawaiians? Are you suggesting there isn't a single Hawaiian who could ethically administer a program? Do you really believe that, as a rule, Hawaiians are incapable of being fair, honest, and capable of managing finances?
on May 5,2013 | 12:44PM
AmbienDaze wrote:
hey prince hanalei, where are you one this one? i'm sure you can expound vociferously on this topic.
on May 11,2013 | 08:11AM
postmanx wrote:
12 cents a year per acre, is this some kind of joke? Money generated from leasing Hawaiian Homestead land could be used to help Hawaiians build houses etc....so pathetic.
on May 5,2013 | 12:39PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
These people should all be in jail, just WTH is going on here. Young and Chinn are obviously corrupt, Hanchett abused his authority as a commisioner. The DHHL director is responsible as well, these people should be prosecuted for theft of DHHL resources. Why are they still employed Neil??? You're not going to get re-elected.
on May 5,2013 | 12:44PM
keei wrote:
Masagatani and Young have only been in DHHL leadership roles less than a year. This problem is long standing and Neil recognized it and put the right people to clean up this mess.
on May 5,2013 | 03:40PM
Nana1 wrote:
Masagatani was Deputy Director for eight years under Cayetano. She is not exactly a newbie to these issues. She's been there and done all this.
on May 6,2013 | 03:21AM
drt888 wrote:
Chinn is a criminal. They let this type of land theft go on for years, while continually hassling others who are not in favor with her. She needs swift prosecution. yes, I'm Hawaiian.
on May 5,2013 | 01:16PM
poidragon wrote:
Knowing what he did was illegal and against his DHHL land lease, he did it any way and DHHL has allowed him to get away with it, without bothering to investigate the matter! This man freely admits he built his home illegally and against his land lease regulations, why is he allowed to continue to own and operate the land lease? Why is DHHL no pursuing this egregious act of disobedience and malfeseance on the part of the lesee? Time for executive heads to roll at DHHL and some one to be held accountable for DHHL's lack of oversight and professionalism!
on May 5,2013 | 04:54PM
keei wrote:
These exec's are long gone, Alapaki, Park, Micah and on and on. Leaving the mess for Masagatani and Young to clean up and fix. An audit is needed, a review of these types of transactions is required. Give the present leadership the necessary time to assess and correct what has been allowed by past commisioners and past DHHL leadership.
on May 5,2013 | 09:51PM
Nana1 wrote:
Oh give me a break! Why do you think they fired Ms, Kauhane. They didn't want reform which is what she was working hard to implement. She and Alapaki were the leaders who brought the transpareny policy to the Commission in April 2012. Masagatani has ignored that policy. Why isn't she speaking up???? Governor puppet!
on May 6,2013 | 03:28AM
Leinanij wrote:
Pololei. No government agency/workers want change and that's what they were trying to do. Kauhane was "bribed" to leave by the Governor's AG and Chief of Staff so you know the corruption is at the top and works its way down.
on May 6,2013 | 11:53AM
LanaUlulani wrote:
I brought up this issue to Bob Freitas who is a planner with DHHL and I asked him why DHHL is now a commercial real estate developer. It was at the open house at Farrrington High School recently.

He just rolled his eyes at me and gave me a pilau attitude !
on May 5,2013 | 06:57PM
iwanaknow wrote:
Well......................at least your got a reaction...............what does rolling the eyes mean?..................you hit the nail on the head............watch out the dog may bite back!
on May 5,2013 | 09:13PM
pueouhane wrote:
Grow up everybody, yeah, the place needs cleaning up and it's about time but this is about pay back and this reporter is being used. He either does not know or failed to do his homework and is getting suckered. A couple years ago a few kanaka hooligans and crooks got some inside deals but not satisfied they got greedy. Wanting more and possibly the whole pie, the back door they came through slowly closed at first. Still pushing for more it finally got slammed. So now, instead of going away, the little piggies went to war. They started to play payback, fake whistle blowing, back-stabbing, and making slanted accusations at the highest level of dirty politics and business dealing. Big trouble and disaccord in the Hawaiian community. They just as crooked and self-serving, in the end they will be a part of this investigative report if the reporter is any good and does his job. He might even get book out of this epic smoke and mirror of a joke.
on May 6,2013 | 02:09AM
dan wrote:
Who supervises the DHHL? If it's the governor, he should investigate them and if substantiated, he should fire all and start from scratch. Otherwise, who is the authority that could do this? Please expedite action in the interest of justice and righteousness.
on May 6,2013 | 09:05AM
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