New Hope has begun broadcasting a new television ad touting its support for Hawaii’s schools and children.
“Rent for one year, $300,000. Upgrades and improvements, $1.7 million.Supporting Hawaii's children and community priceless,” says the voiceover.
It comes on the heels of a whistle-blower lawsuit filed by Mitch Kahle and Holly Huber.
The complaint alleges that the churches underpaid the public schools for use of their facilities.
We asked Department of Education officials if it could back up or dispute the churches claims—
In theory, the DOE should be able to, especially if the donations top $5,000.
But the department couldn't provide us any accounting or list of the donations over the years.
"We preach to our principals you have to record everything. When you specifically talk about third party use of facilities as well, everything has to record. There has to be a paper trail and a solid data of all funds either going into the school from gift-in-kind or or leasing the space," said Ray H’Leureux, deputy superintendent of facilities.
L'Heureux maintains schools shouldn’t be giving special privileges to any one group and everyone should be treated fairly across the board.
Then there's Farrington High School. New Hope has been renting space there for decades, despite a five-year limit spelled out by the attorney general.
Recently, that language disappeared from lease forms.
“It didn't make sense and again it was linked to an old case in New Jersey," said H’Leureux.
H'Leureux said the change was made after consulting with the attorney general’s office, but no new opinion was issued.
Meanwhile New Hope church says it planning a news conference to talk about its efforts to get the lawsuit dismissed.
The church is now looking at buying land for a permanent facility and expects to share more about exactly where with its congregation later this month.