Ex-Bishop trustee defending Kailuan case
Former leaseholders at the Kailuan cooperative, whose lease expired on Dec. 31, have retained former Bishop Estate trustee Gerard Jervis to attempt to halt eviction proceedings.
Kaneohe Ranch, owner of the ground lease at the Kailuan cooperative, is suing to force former lessees to surrender the property. Yesterday Circuit Court Judge Glenn J. Kim presided over a closed preliminary status conference between Jervis and Kaneohe Ranch's attorney, Rosemary Fazio.
Jervis, who took the case pro bono, said yesterday that he believes Kaneohe Ranch violated Hawaii Revised Statute 514C, which gives coop owners the right of first refusal to purchase their homes.
"I believe that Kaneohe Ranch intends to sell the property," Jervis said.
Jervis was a trustee from 1994 until 1999 of what is now known as Kamehameha Schools -- which has been on the landowner side of many leasehold disputes for decades. In 1999, he and several other trustees of what was then called Bishop Estate were removed amid a scandal over the trust's management, after the Internal Revenue Service threatened to revoke the charitable trust's tax-exempt status if they remained.
"This is a precedent-setting case," Jervis said of the Kailuan. "The question is, can you circumvent coop owners' rights by allowing the lease to run out?"
The majority of Kailuan leasehold owners had wanted to buy the property fee from Kaneohe Ranch, but final talks between the parties broke down Dec. 19. Kaneohe Ranch declined a multimillion-dollar offer from shareholders and ordered them to vacate the building. If Kaneohe Ranch succeeds in taking back the property, the Kailuan will become the first modern-day lease surrender of a condominium or co-op.
Meanwhile, Fazio, an attorney at Ashford and Wriston and Kaneohe Ranch's legal counsel, has filed a complaint asking the judge for declaratory and injunctive relief. She also is seeking temporary restraining orders against former shareholders who remain in the Kailuan.
"We are confident that evidence will prove that these remaining shareholders have no legal or equitable right to continue to occupy the property and use the illegal cesspools," Fazio said. "We are asking for legal relief so that Kaneohe Ranch can secure the return of the property and address the EPA mandate."
Sara Way, one of the remaining half dozen or so Kailuan shareholders who have continued to live in their homes past the lease surrender date, said she and other former leaseholders are hopeful that Jervis will be able to halt eviction and help them find a way to purchase their homes.
"We are praying," Way said.