AG Investigates Maui Nonprofit - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

AG Investigates Maui Nonprofit

A Wailuku charity is under fire for using a big bulk of its funds to pay the salaries of its director and her daughter.

The state Attorney General's office has opened an investigation into the Wailuku Main Street Association and has interviewed its longtime director Jocelyn Perreira.

The AG's office says that two-thirds of the Wailuku charity's taxpayer-funded grant money goes to salaries and not to program services. It is recommending that the board terminate Perreira.

"There's little evidence of actual program services by the WMSA in the last two years," Deputy Attorney General Hugh Jones said in a letter to the association's board last week.

Perreira declined comment.

Tom Cannon, chairman of the association's board, said he disagreed with the AG's findings, saying much of it was based on interviews with a disgruntled former employee and a biased ex-board member.

He said Perreira has been an "outstanding" employee who has helped the organization earn national and local recognition for historic preservation.

The Wailuku Main Street Association is a charitable organization that receives more than $200,000 from Maui County a year to promote and preserve the downtown Wailuku district and other historic small town communities.

In its most recent tax filings, the organization said it conducted 149 reviews of local renovation and permitting projects completed 820 consultations with local community members.

But the Ag's office said it requested documentation on those review and consultation projects but received no formal confirmation that the work was done.

Sam Clark, a former board member, said Perreira kept everyone in the dark. He said board members and Maui County officials asked similar questions about the nonprofit's operations but were not given enough information.

"We didn't know either. The public didn't know. The Planning Department didn't know. The mayor's office didn't know. Nobody knew," Clark said.

According to the organization's tax filings, Perreira is the nonprofit's highest paid employee, receiving $96,000 dollars in salary and benefits in 2009.

Her daughter Stacey Purdy has been a employed by the organization for over 15 years, according to the state. Purdy's compensation was not available.

The Attorney General's office wants the nonprofit's board to change its policies so more money can actually go toward improving Wailuku. Until then, the investigation is ongoing.

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