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Saturday, August 12, 2006

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Maui News
Saturday, August 12, 2006

Haiku seeks healing at ’unofficial’ meeting

HAIKU – An attempt to build back the Haiku Community Association and its board began in earnest Thursday night at a meeting filled with legal explanations and calls for healing and unity in the community.

The Haiku Community Association board essentially disbanded during a meeting in May when five board members resigned and a vote was taken to oust a sixth. Several association officers said they stepped down to protest a letter that questioned their authority to endorse a proposed Haiku fire station and municipal complex.

When announced, the meeting on Thursday was described as a community meeting to organize a new board for the Haiku Community Association. But at the meeting, it was quickly emphasized that the gathering at Haiku Community Center was not an association function, but just a community meeting to discuss what to do in the aftermath of the board resignations.

Maui County Council Member Mike Molina and state Rep. Mele Carroll, whose 13th District includes Haiku, both encouraged the 75 to 100 residents at the meeting to unite and settle their differences.

Carroll said she was “brokenhearted” to hear about the association’s dispute. “I hope we can all come together as a community,” she said.

Thursday night’s meeting opened with facilitator Mike Gagne providing highlights of the association’s 30-year history, including its accomplishments from coordinating the annual Ho’olaulea and sponsoring the Haiku Living Legacy project to record old-timers’ memories of growing up in the community.

Gagne then called up attorney Lance Collins, who at the request of former and current board members provided his legal opinion about the status of the association’s board.

After reading the association’s three-page bylaws and state statutes that govern nonprofit corporations such as the Haiku Community Association, Collins said only three board members remain – Nick Nikhilananda (who did not resign), Ramon Mullen (whose resignation was not official because of his absence at the May meeting) and Lloyd Fischel, who had been voted off in May by the other board members.

The procedure through which Fischel was voted out did not comply with notice requirements in the state law and therefore was not valid, according to Collins.

Nikhilananda was the only member present at Thursday’s meeting and pledged at its conclusion that he would get a hold of the other two members (Mullen currently resides in California but reportedly is to return to Maui shortly) and appoint new board members “as soon as possible.”

The association needs to have at least five board members to have a quorum for an official meeting. On Thursday, community members nominated 14 possible names for interim board members until a new election is held at its annual meeting in January.

Fischel was not present at Thursday night’s meeting, but he sent a representative to read a statement that explained that his absence was intentional so as not to constitute a quorum of the present board or even give an appearance that the meeting was a valid session of the Haiku Community Association.

Fischel’s representative, Christine Sebrado, was not allowed to read all of Fischel’s statement. Mike Gagne, the community meeting facilitator, said he would not allow people to denigrate others.

Contacted on Friday, Fischel said he planned to be involved in the process of appointing an interim board. He also said he intends to continue coordinating a planned candidates forum for October and being involved in setting up the association’s annual meeting, election and officer appointments in January.

Fischel said he became aware of his official status on the board about two weeks ago after reading a legal opinion from Collins. The attorney told community members he refused to advocate for any one board member but agreed to provide legal advice to all of them.

“I want to thank Lance Collins for his efforts to ensure the community association follows state law and its own bylaws,” Fischel said.

In response to a question from the audience, Collins said there was nothing prohibiting the community from forming a new association or community group. In the end, residents chose to provide nominations for interim board members and to go forward with keeping the Haiku Community Association intact.

The association’s former treasurer Tim Wolfe turned over to Nikhilananda the association’s mailbox key and a check for $1,568.10. There also are plans to hand over operation of the association’s Web site and its records to the remaining board members.

Other suggestions made at Thursday’s meeting included getting training on laws and board operations for board members and filing for tax-exempt status for the association.

The association’s immediate past President Gregg Blue said he was happy about Thursday night’s turnout and that it seemed like an interim board would be appointed soon. That will make it possible, according to Blue, for the association to “get back on the road to serving the community.”

Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at claudine@mauinews.com.

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