THE lawsuit was filed by Mitch Kahle and Holly Huber, members of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church. They claim churches have defrauded the Department of Education to the tune of $5.6 million in unpaid rent and charges – and that the DoE is showing no interest in recouping its losses.
According to this report, many churches rent space from public schools. But that’s not the issue. The allegation is the churches are intentionally filing false applications to get charged less.
Said Jim Bickerton, Kahle and Huber’s attorney:
By not paying for what they use they are directly taking money from our states children.
In the case of Farrington High School the plaintiffs claim New Hope Oahu short-changed the school $3.2 million over six years before the roof of the auditorium collapsed.
The buildings are falling down and the state is still paying to run them and not getting reimbursed. It’s tragic. That $3.2 million might have put a new roof on Farrington years ago.
They claim New Hope Hawaii Kai short-changed Kaiser High School $1.1 million and One Love Ministries kept $930,000 from Kaimuki High School.
They claim that three out of five churches using schools are not paying the proper amount and they say they have thousands of documents and evidence to prove it.
New Hope Oahu Pastor Wayne Cordeiro said in an earlier interview with Hawaii News Now that his church had donated about $1 million in equipment and upgrades to the Farrington High auditorium before the collapse.
But the plaintiffs claim “in-kind” donations don’t count.
Kahle and Huber feel they are helping schools recover costs, but claim the DOE is covering up for churches. Said Holly Huber:
Instead of assisting us they tried to cover up the information. They told us we were no longer allowed to communicate with the public schools. I would call it stonewalling.
The top five offenders being sued include New Hope Oahu, New Hope Hawaii Kai, New Hope Kapolei, One Love Ministries and Calvary Chapel Central Oahu.
Fernando Castillo, Hawaii District of Foursquare Churches Supervisor, said in a statement:
The three New Hope Churches mentioned in the claims are members of the Hawaii District of Foursquare Churches. We can assure the public that our churches have always honored all agreements made with DOE agents for the use of public school facilities. On top of paying the rent agreed, we have also given voluntarily thousands of dollars to the schools we use to upgrade their facilities and equipment. We are committed to be a blessing to our community.
Calvary Chapel Central Oahu and One Love Ministries did not have a comment.
The Attorney General also did not comment on the lawsuit. The Department of Education would only confirm churches use public school facilities.