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Native Hawaiian housing group files suit against Bank of America

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It’s been 28 years since Bank of America pledged to provide $150 million in federally backed home loans to Native Hawaiians.

About two years ago, seeing that those efforts waned, the Maui County Council decided to pursue legal action against the bank, allocating about $200,000 for special counsel.

But no legal action has gone through, with counsel suggesting that now is not the time to go forward with the suit.

This week, the Native Hawaiian group Na Po‘e Kokua filed its own suit against Bank of America. The Kahului-based organization also recommended that the county dismiss its special counsel and join them.

At a meeting earlier this week of the council’s Government Relations, Ethics, and Transparency Committee, Chair Michael Molina expressed frustration that nothing has been done from the county’s side.

“But it just boggles the mind as to why we've come to this point,” Molina said Tuesday. “It seemed like we had an opportunity. But for whatever reason now, you know, the answer seems to be no and not pursue litigation. I'm just hoping that, you know, this administration is committed to helping our people of color and take on this giant — Bank of America.”

Council Vice Chair Keani Rawlins-Fernandez said the council needs to focus on the county's claim to the bank's impact on real property tax revenues.

“I want to help refocus us on what the county's claim for relief is, which is the reduction in property taxes that we didn't get because of Bank of America's failure to fulfill its order to Native Hawaiians after illegally redlining,” Rawlins-Fernandez said at the meeting.

Following an executive session, the committee ultimately deferred action on the item.

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