Political Vendetta Against Alika Atay Shifts into Overdrive for Election Investigation of Queen’s Celebration Part of Relentless Campaign to Discredit Native Hawaiian Reformer

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Almost weekly leading up to the November election on Maui we have seen front page articles damning Council Member Alika Atay for various trifles. One could easily suspect its part of an effort to disempower this Native Hawaiian politician and place his election rival, Alice Lee, back into the fold of the “good old boy” network.

This has included an ongoing pattern of harassment by Council Chair Mike White’s office targeting Atay. Ever since assuming the mantle of County Chair, White has sought to limit the influence of the progressive wing of the Council, especially focusing on Atay, by illegally blocking his official county emails.

After Atay organized a celebration of Queen Ka‘ahumanu’s 250th birthday, Maui County’s administrators  have worked overtime to turn the event into an occasion to investigate, attack and discredit Atay.

Administered through a grant award from the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development (OED), the OED felt entitled that they had the prerogative to withhold grant monies. Without those funds, the grantee was unable to pay its remaining vendors, including many east side Hana vendors.

This saddens me because I’m a Hana girl. I attended nursery school at Wainanalua Congregational Church and preschool at the old Hana School. I climbed trees to get better views of the pa‘u riders every Aloha Week parade, I jumped off the pier and would scuba dive with honu (turtles) in the shadows of Pu‘u Kauiki hill where Queen Ka‘ahumanu was born. As I grew and strengthened my cultural sensitivities, I learned protocol and stepped with respect and chanted at the entrance to this area and made ceremonial offering.

The EOD intentionally and fraudulently withheld funds from the grantee for the event. Teena Rasmussen and Mayor’s OED staff withheld money under false pretenses until the vendors complained. OED then used the complaints, created by their own actions, to conduct a stacked investigation and then to take control of the appropriation grant that the Council had approved for the event.

On April 5, 2018, just ten days after the event and over five weeks before a vendor complaint, OED stated in an email that they were withholding payment to ensure there “won’t be any audit finding when the department of finance goes through the annual process of going through grant reimbursement requests.”

The Department of Finance confirmed there was no such annual grant reimbursement request audit. When the April 5 email was sent, both the grantee’s previous invoices had been completely approved, fully reimbursed and not flagged in any way for audit or further review.

Since taking office in January 2017, Atay has been in conflict with Maui’s Corporation Counsel which, under orders from Council Chair Mike White, has denied Atay the County Council services typically afforded to all elected Council  members.

Atay has filed several complaints against chief counsel Pat Wong based on this biased and lack of service. During this time, Atay’s office has been denied the support of taxpayer funded attorneys.

This discriminatory legally questionable denial of taxpayer services for their elected Council members is part of a pattern of harassment by Council Chair Mike White’s office that seems determined to limit the influence of the progressive wing of the Council. This pattern is evidenced by the illegal and unprecedented blocking of Council Member Atay’s official county emails.

The internet hosting provider (Hawaii Performance Systems) confirmed this unauthorized action with detailed reports indicating that a custom mail flow rule created by an admin at mauicounty.us blocked Atay’s messages to 49 official county email addresses.

The order blocked email delivery to fellow Council members, the Office of Council Services and County Legislative staff. This unlawful directive restricted Atay’s ability to schedule Water Resource Committee meetings as well as conduct other official business.

Atay chairs the the Council’s Water Resource Commission, and is a leading critic of pesticides that threaten Maui’s clean water, as well as of the historic theft of most of the island’s water by A&B (as reported here in the Maui Independent).  Native Hawaiian farmers were encouraged by Atay’s election, feeling that finally there was an elected official who understood the struggles of farm life, appurtenant rights to water and the need to grow food.

To thwart Atay’s Committee, Mike White found immaterial excuses to order the illegal blocking of Atay’s official emails, resulting in a government work shut down that has negatively impacted the greater public good. Progress in the area of water management that could have been accomplished has effectively been suspended.

The documented history of repeated efforts to disempower Atay’s office include these examples of blocked emails that bounced back to Atay’s account reading as follows:

November 6, 2017 – “A custom mail flow rule created by an admin at mauicounty.us has blocked your message. You are not permitted to send to the address specified.”

January 2, 2018 10:28 AM –  “Your message to Mike.White@mauicounty.us couldn’t be delivered.  A custom mail flow rule created by an admin at mauicounty.us has blocked your message. You are not permitted to send to the address specified.”

January 30, 2018 3:20 PM – A custom mail flow rule created by an admin at mauicounty.us has blocked your message. You are not permitted to send to the address specified. Couldnʻt deliver to the following recipients: ……… Mike.White@mauicounty.us

It is imperative that the public not be swayed by the politically partisan headlines of the Maui News as it publishes inflammatory pieces about Alika Atay.

With the November election imminent the time has come to  offer a counterpoint to the negative press that has sought to derail Alika Atay’s important reelection campaign.

What must also be remembered is that a beautiful educational event for Queen Ka‘ahumanu ‘s 250thbirthday was inspiring for those who attended. I personally made offering of the maile lei draping over the art piece which revealed a young Queen Ka‘ahumanu. May the queen look upon all those who performed protocol, gave of their time, greeted Hokule‘a, fed the people, made lei and celebrated her birthday. Mahalo to all who made the events sacred, you are appreciated.

 

 

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Faith Ewbank

Faith Ewbank is the Assistant Managing Editor of The Maui Independent. A veteran graphic designer and 46 year resident of Maui, her interest in land stewardship and community empowerment issues, from Kipahulu to Keanae, have always been an important part of her life.

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