EWA BEACH, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A $200,000 grant request was submitted to the legislature by state Rep. Rida Cabanilla on behalf of the Ewa Historical Society. Cabinilla is on the board of directors of the non-profit. Her son is vice president.
The grant application states the Society wants to hire landscapers to cut the grass at the Ewa Plantation Cemetery, also known at the Memorial of the Pioneer Cemetery.
"It was community demand," Cabanilla said.
But the city already pays a contractor to cut the grass once a month. The Ewa Beach Lions club also has regular volunteer cleanup days.
"It wreaks of corruption and fraud," Ewa Beach resident Matt Lopresti said.
He feels Cabanilla is taking advantage of taxpayers.
"There's no reason for any non-profit to be trying to get $200,000 to do something that's already done. It's a fraudulent move on the taxpayers," he said.
The legislature awarded the non-profit $100,000 to cut the grass at the cemetery, buy equipment and pay annual salaries to six landscapers.
"I did not hide anything. The names are there. What it's for is there. It is not like all of a sudden I got $100,000," Cabanilla said.
Kurt Fevella Is president of the Ewa Beach Lions Club. He said up to now Cabanilla has shown little interest in the cemetery.
"She never came here and cleaned the graveyard with us or came here asking if we needed any funding," he said.
"I stood up in front of the Neighborhood Board," Cabanilla said. "They wanted something done to the cemetery."
Fevella said Cabanilla asked him to be president of her non-profit. But he turned her down.
"I felt that something was illegal. And especially when you're dealing with state or federal funds. I don't want to have nothing to do with that."
"How could it be illegal? It's for the community," Cabanilla said.
Lopresti is running against Cabanilla in the next election. He said she knows the city's taking care of the cemetery.
"It raises a lot of questions about where that money is actually going to go," he said.
"Conflicts of interest will come if there's an exchange of cash. Right now nobody can say there has been an exchange of cash," Cabanilla said.
Cabanilla didn't disclose her ties to the non-profit before lawmakers voted to give it the money. Although the funds have been earmarked, they haven't been released.
"If the people in the community tells me, 'We no longer need the money, Rida.' Then I'll give it back," she said.