New Ho’olehua Center Caught in Leadership Quagmire


Photo by Jack Kiyonaga

A split in leadership within the Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans (MVCV) has caused delays with the opening of the new Ho’olehua Veterans and Homestead Residents’ Center. The building is nearly complete, however the Dept. of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL), which owns the land, has instituted a two month deferment period following community meetings in late April.

Initially, DHHL was ready to recommend that MVCV have sole management of the new building, according to DHHL reports from a March 25 beneficiary consultation meeting on Molokai. While MVCV would manage the building, the facility would be jointly used by the Ho’olehua Homesteaders Association. However, following testimony from residents, opposing factions of the MVCV, and representatives from the Ho’olehua Homesteaders Association at an April 22 Hawaiian Homes Commission meeting, the Hawaiian Homes Commission decided more time was needed before a lease for the building could be signed with MVCV.

Zachary Helm, the Molokai commissioner for DHHL, explained during the public meeting that “I think we need some more time to make a decision…We should differ this and discuss more.”

“Before we sign a document, we need to confirm who the real [MVCV] board is moving forwards,” said DHHL Kauai Commissioner Dennis Neves. “This really is a community situation that needs to be resolved within the community.”

The shared facility between the MVCV and Ho’olehua homesteaders has a confusing history dating back to when funding was secured by then-Representative Lynn DeCoite in 2017. It is unclear exactly how, but according to multiple sources, a $400,000 grant for the parking lot for the current MVCV Veterans Center in Kaunakakai turned into a $4,000,000 grant. This new grant however, was designated as a Capital Improvement Project, meaning it could only be used on state land. That’s why the site on DHHL land behind the Lanikeha Center was selected.

Disagreement regarding the establishment of a second veterans center has led to a splintering amongst MVCV members themselves. Now, two men have claimed leadership of the organization.

Following a special membership meeting in January, a new, interim board led by George Kahinu claims to have replaced the old board, which was led by Tim Meyer.

Kahinu explained that mismanagement of the organization and the current veterans center in Kaunakakai necessitated the special election and removal of the old board.

“We’re trying to get [the Kaunakakai center] cleaned up, straightened out, and get back up financing to run this facility,” Kahinu told the Dispatch, citing a lapsed 501c3 registration, unpaid bills, and overall deteriorating conditions at the center.

Kahinu explained that MVCV doesn’t have the financial capacity to run both centers, and questioned the need for an additional center.

“We’re a population of 7,000 and we have two veterans centers six miles apart?”

Following the January special election, Kahinu and the interim board changed the locks on the Kaunakakai Veterans Center and its post office box.

“I can get us in the front door without them stopping us, and I can lock them out. And I did that,” said Kahinu.

Tim Meyer, who was elected MVCV Commander back in 2022, claims that the special election wasn’t legitimate because only the board of directors can remove the commander.

“We’ve been awarded the managership [of the new building in Ho’olehua], but it’s been put on hold because of this dispute,” Meyer told the Dispatch. “We have to get it settled.”

Sen. DeCoite voiced support for the new building to be managed by Meyer’s board at the April 22 Hawaiian Homes Commission meeting.

DeCoite recommended that “the facility that has been built be given to MVCV and the state under the legal commander Timmy Meyer.”

DeCoite did not return requests for comment as of the publishing of this article.

Although cousins, Meyer and Kahinu’s relationship has been tested throughout this process.

“Everyday day when I see [Kahinu], I ask him ‘Can we have the key to the place, can we use the place?’” explained Meyer.

“I’m sure [Meyer] wants to whack me sometimes,” said Kahinu, “But we did enough fighting in the war.”

With both describing mediation as unlikely, Meyer and Kahinu intend for the courts to settle the matter. Both men, however, profess a commitment to the veterans they serve.

“We’re not going to do a split,” said Meyer. “We’re all veterans.”

“Every veteran should have a say in what’s happening,” said Kahinu. “We hope someday that we can come together.”

With DHHL’s two-month deferment period ending in June, that “someday” will have to come sooner rather than later.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.