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Property Management Company: Public Outrage Over HOA Cat-Feeding Fines Severe but Misdirected

By Tom Hasslinger
June 9, 2022, 5:30 PM HST
* Updated June 9, 3:53 PM
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The property management company director tasked with communicating the intentions of the Keauhou condo HOA mired in controversy surrounding a cat-feeding issue said he’s received a couple dozen “brutal” emails from the public since a Big Island Now story on the issue published Monday, June 6.

Michael Kennedy, who works for Hawaiiana Management Company, the property management company that cares for Keauhou Palena, told Big Island Now on Thursday that his job is to enforce the rules established by the homeowner’s association board of directors, in this case Keauhou Palena.

He is not the one who makes the rules, only enforces them, he said. Since the story published, he’s been inundated with “brutally harsh” emails as though he were responsible for creating the fining system.

“I just want to clarify it, I have nothing to do with it,” Kennedy said, referring to HOA rules. “I have no say with what happens.”

The Keauhou Palena Board of Directors issued $25,900 in fines, and counting, to one of the condo’s owners, Pamela Cooper, for feeding two cats over the course of the last year.

The cats eat on Cooper’s lanai. PC: KARES
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Kennedy, who wrote the letter informing Cooper of the fines, said while he issues the letters, he does so at the will of the board.

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Kennedy said he’s received around 20 emails from people in the community since the story ran that disparaged him or threatened to take business away from Hawaiiana Management Company.

“I hope you go to jail, lose your job, go to hell,” Kennedy said, summarizing the gist of the correspondence.

“Of the 20 emails I would say only one that was maybe polite,” he said, adding “I’m sure if I went on social media it would be even worse.”

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The letter Kennedy signed, dated March 15, notified Cooper that she had incurred $25,900 in fines for feeding two 9-year-old cats who live on the property.

The letter lists the bylaws that prohibit feeding and keeping animals and informs Cooper she had been warned since June of 2021 that such a punishment could be levied against her if she continued to feed the animals.

The letter states that Cooper would continue to incur $100 fines per day should she continue to feed them, which Cooper told Big Island Now in the article on Monday that she intends to do.

Cooper told Big Island Now that the animals pre-date her purchase of the condo, and she instructed the tenants who rent the place from her to continue feeding the cats – named Bob and Carol – because to withhold food for them in a spot the animals consider home would be animal cruelty as defined by Hawai’i statutes.

“I’m just caught between a rock and a hard spot,” Cooper said.

When contacted on Monday by Big Island Now, Kennedy referred all questions to the attorney the board of directors hired. The attorney, Ed Haitsuka, of Kailua-Kona, didn’t reach out to Big Island Now this week. Big Island left a message for Haitsuka again on Thursday.

But the blowback Kennedy received in the days the board of directors and attorney didn’t speak following the Monday story prompted Kennedy to call Big Island Now back and explain how Hawaiiana only enforced the rules the board of directors established.

“I’ve become the face of this whole debacle, and so has Hawaiiana,” Kennedy said. “I don’t think it’s fair that Hawaiiana has been brought into this.”

“I just want them to direct their anger in the right direction,” he said of the public’s reaction.

Rich Milham, Keauhou Palena Board of Directors president, said on Thursday that the board hired the attorney specifically for the case at hand in response to Cooper having hired an attorney of her own, Sara Vargas.

That surprised the board because there is an appeals process within the HOA that condo owners can use should they want to appeal a fine or ruling, and Cooper didn’t exercise that right after she was first notified of the possible fines. Instead, the board found out she acquired professional help.

“They didn’t talk to anybody,” said Milham, who also didn’t return a message on Monday, but spoke with Big Island Now on Thursday. “We were forced to hire an attorney.”

Milham said on Thursday the board had prepared a statement on what they can say as it pertains to the issue, but did not want to issue it without having their attorney’s consent. He said the attorney advised the board on Thursday not to speak about the case until after the hearing on June 16.

“We don’t have a choice on a lot of this,” he said.

The June 16 appeal hearing is with the board of directors and Cooper.

Kennedy said the HOA asked Cooper during the year that led up to the fine to feed the cats 15 feet away from where they were eating, which was off the property and therefor not subject to HOA rules, but that suggestion wasn’t obliged. He added that some neighbors had complained about the cats as well.

Either way, he added, he didn’t make the rules.

“I’m hoping it gets resolved,” Kennedy said.

Tom Hasslinger
Tom Hasslinger is a journalist who lives in Kailua-Kona. Prior to joining Big Island Now, he worked as the managing editor for West Hawaii Today and deputy editor for The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai. He's worked for over 15 years as a reporter for the Oahu-based Civil Beat news outlet, as well as in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and Douglas Wyoming.
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