Eoff questioned on vacation condo

HILO — North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff, the primary sponsor of a bill limiting vacation rentals on the island, has come under fire for her ownership of a vacation rental condo in Kailua-Kona.

Eoff is the only council member who owns a short-term vacation rental, according to financial disclosure reports filed by Jan. 31 with the county clerk.

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She’s also the council member who co-sponsored a bill to regulate short-term rentals that the Hawaii County Council will consider.

Eoff lists her ownership of the condo in the real estate section of the financial disclosure, but doesn’t list income received from the rental with her other sources of income as required by law for any income received of $1,000 or more.

The 372-square-foot condo at the Islander Inn on Kuakini Highway is valued for tax purposes at $89,800, according to the county Real Property Tax Office website.

Eoff’s condo ownership came to the attention of Rob Guzman, who owns the vacation rental Bananarama Cottage in Kalapana Seaview. Guzman accuses Eoff of writing the bill in a way to exempt her own condo from the regulations.

“She has a conflict of interest in this legislation,” Guzman said Friday. “Barring people in other areas, especially areas with high numbers of poorer people and people of color, they will be prohibited from doing what she is doing herself.”

An email conversation Thursday between Eoff and Guzman, copied to newspaper reporters, showed Eoff first denied she had a vacation rental. Guzman was pressing Eoff to explain why she shouldn’t recuse herself from the legislation because of her own property holdings.

“I do not have — and have never had — a rental of any kind,” Eoff said in an email. “Please stop sending misinformation.”

When confronted with the record of her transient accommodations tax license, she backed off that assertion, saying she misunderstood.

“I should have qualified my response….. I do own a small condo unit at the Islander Inn which is in a Resort Zone on Alii Drive and managed by a rental agency,” Eoff responded.

Eoff said the Resort Zone is the appropriate place for the rentals. Her Bill 108 would require existing transient vacation rentals outside of the Vacation District, the General Commercial District or Resort Nodes to apply for a nonconforming use certificate in order to be grandfathered in.

Those in the allowed districts, such as Eoff, would be required to register with the county, but they don’t have to apply to the Planning Department for a nonconforming use permit.

“So you would only directly benefit because your legislation exempts people like yourself and you will even lie to constituents to hide this fact until called on your deception,” Guzman responded to Eoff. “Deeply disturbing.”

The bill, set for a Feb. 20 hearing, is creating a stir among property owners who rent out their homes through Airbnb and the like, and residents of established neighborhoods who see them overtaken by vacationers.

The bill applies to rentals of 30 days or less. It doesn’t apply to short-term rentals of a dwelling unit that is the owner’s primary residence. It also does not include “hosted rentals,” meaning transient use of a single room or sleeping area of a residential dwelling unit or guest house where the owner or operator lives on the property.

“At this point, I don’t believe there is a conflict of interest, and I am excited to hear from the public about how they see Bill 108 addressing commercial use of residential housing,” Eoff said. “I intend to disclose to the County Council the fact that my husband and I own a condo.”

Ethics boards have traditionally taken a lenient interpretation of conflicts of interest issues for state and county legislative bodies, saying as long as the elected official doesn’t derive a unique benefit or gain a greater advantage than the rest of the class of people affected by legislation, it’s not a conflict.

But Eoff’s failure to report her earnings on her annual disclosure could raise a red flag.

The instructions on the form state, “You must report the source and amount of all income of $1,000 or more received during the preceding calendar year. You must report the source of the income, the amount of income received and your occupation. For example, if you are employed by a business, then report the name of the business, the amount of income received during the preceding year, and your occupation with the business. When disclosing the source, provide the complete name (not acronyms) and the address of the business or source from which the income was derived.”

Eoff said she didn’t need to report the income because it didn’t meet the $1,000 threshold. She has been paying transient accommodations tax on the earnings since 2006, according to state Department of Taxation records.

“Our condo is listed on the financial disclosure form, however it operates at a loss and doesn’t produce income in excess of $1,000,” Eoff told the newspaper Friday. “The Financial Disclosure Form asks for annual income in excess of $1,000 and therefore no income was reported.”

That’s not how the county ethics code defines what income should be on the form, or how state Ethics Commission Executive Director Dan Gluck interprets what should go on financial disclosure forms. Both the county code and the state Ethics Commission, upon whose forms the county forms are based, say the form is asking for gross income, not net.

“‘Income’ means gross income, defined by section 61 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954,” according to the county code. The IRS code includes rents.

Rents would be considered gross income and the amount reported on the state form would be the amount that’s reported for general excise taxes, said Gluck.

“If the rent was $3,000, they would report income as $3,000,” Gluck said.

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Eoff, chairwoman of the council Planning Committee, said she was given an initial draft of the legislation by the Mayor Harry Kim administration to help refine it and introduce it.

She said she and the bill’s co-sponsor, Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha, spent more than six months meeting with the community, vacation rental agents, Airbnb representatives, the Hawaii Island Board of Realtors and legislators from other counties.

  1. Pest Outwest February 11, 2018 12:36 am

    Oh my goodness, a Hawaii government official lied! I’m shocked. Yeah.

    I really love the part about her interpretation of the reporting requirement being based on net rather than gross income. She’s proposing legislation and doesn’t even know the law, that’s what we’re suppose to believe. I find it far more likely that she is simply a lying sack.


  2. angkoldoy February 11, 2018 3:59 am

    Speaking of definitions, let’s define “overtaken by vacationers”. Is it that house down the street with dogs barking ,24/7? Or the one that is insensitive to the fact that in a tourism economy, folks work three different shifts ? They think beltin’ out the tunes on the karaoke is not disturbing anyone . Or the house dat smokin’ der pig fo grinds? Or the multi family single family residence parking 5 cars on the road shoulder, not to mention the ground water contamination (depending on the time of year, sharing that distinct aroma with all)?And the house with those 2 A/Vs on the shoulder or stored in the driveway for that upcoming rebuild project? Or the favorite neighbor lightin’ the medical herb for the neighborhood to enjoy? Or that
    Local resident away from the neighborhood whose vacant lot with vegetation creeping over the shoulder onto the roadway? Or those that block the road every Independence Day and New Year’s Eve? Now if that is not the definition of a neighborhood “overtaken”, what is? Well folks, that is my home in Hawaii and I wouldn’t want it any other way . Especially if they had to make regulations with realistic enforcement provisions to change it. And if you research closely, you may find regulations on the books addressing some of these situations, legislated (purposely ?) without realistic enforcement provisions . Unless your neighborhood is overtaken by visitors creating an environment ”worse’ than my hood, let’s give those visitors a chance to experience a real Hawaii .


    1. MilitantModerate February 11, 2018 7:47 am

      Don’t forget those morons who add to the ambiance of the neighborhood by modifying their vehicles so they are as noisy as possible and then roar around at all hours…


      1. angkoldoy February 12, 2018 1:51 am

        Thanks M. Easy for me to forget that one. I’ve become deaf in these twilight years.


  3. Kaipo Wall February 11, 2018 11:56 am

    Eorr was a donkey too


    1. Joe Joe February 12, 2018 1:58 pm

      Haha good one !


  4. Rusty Da Clown February 11, 2018 12:53 pm

    What’s wrong with owning a vacation rental where a vacation rental is supposed to be? The problem is all the units in neighborhoods getting rented out by the night instead of local folks who need a place.


    1. KonaRich February 11, 2018 4:53 pm

      How about all the taxes and fee being foisted on the good tax paying people of Hawaii, working extra jobs to boot. People do what they have to do to make ends meet, bless there hearts, despite what the state and county government throw at them. I’ll soon have to raise my renter rent because of this relentless raising of my taxes. Where does it end, more homeless?


      1. 4whatitsworth February 12, 2018 9:15 am

        Our politics,practices, and culture get more third world every day. Once the government has completely taken over people will keep anything of value hidden away, the best jobs will be working for the government, and there will be a huge underground cash and black market society.

        Removing the vacation rental economic opportunity from Hawaii’s middle class is just wrong.

        Building more housing will make housing more affordable. Increasing taxes and removing economic opportunity will make housing less affordable on a relative basis.


  5. paul February 11, 2018 1:25 pm

    ah haa….got cha……….


  6. KonaRich February 11, 2018 4:37 pm

    Eoff was well versed by angel Pilago who did very little for the west side and she follows suite. Eoff benefits if the the bill should pass, by forcing visitor into a smaller renter pool. Now she can get bigger rent at the Islander Inn. Read how she spent 6 month with vacation rental agencies, Airbnb Reps, Board of Realtors, and OH yea the community(right).
    I like Karen, she is a nice lady but with Kim as mayor, not so much.


  7. wutzhappn February 11, 2018 5:15 pm

    It’s not possible to operate a vacation rental condo at the Kona Islander Inn at a loss year after year, unless you are hiding your profits. Karen Eoff should resign from the council, and the council should rescind her proposed ordinance. Her ordinance benefits only people who can afford to own property in a resort area. The AG zoned residents, middle class and struggling apparently don’t get to participate in the American Dream, according Eoff. Must be nice to cheat and lie while telling the rest of us what we can and cannot do with our private properties.


    1. Buds4All February 11, 2018 5:47 pm

      She is a crook!


    2. 4whatitsworth February 11, 2018 6:43 pm

      As you point out.. vacation rentals via the internet created real economic opportunity for the middle class here in Hawaii and that is in conflict with the government revenue and power that come through resort zoning. That is what this is really about.

      I wish these guys would just do their jobs and clean up the Water Department, the DMV and the planning department!


    3. Pest Outwest February 12, 2018 5:33 am

      Well, sky back on that a bit, I rented a condo unit here for over five years, and the best I ever did was just above breakeven on cash flow (no debt either). Principally I was speculating in the value (I bought it in the Financial Crisis), and I was just looking to the rent income to pay for owning it.

      It is possible she lost money, and she doesn’t define that, is she deducting interest on a loan? Tax depreciation? She has a fast and loose way with words apparently, like “I do not have — and have never had — a rental of any kind” apparently means, yes, I had a rental.


  8. Buds4All February 11, 2018 5:46 pm

    Impeach her! Run her and her family out of town! She is nothing but trash! Don’t come parading around in my neighborhood you hypocrite!


  9. Buds4All February 11, 2018 6:04 pm

    Quite frankly now that I think about it I would rather have the tourists as neighbors than Eoff crooked whore!


    1. wahineilikea February 11, 2018 6:11 pm

      That is totally uncalled for. I hope the moderators remove your comment, which violates forum guidelines, and blocks you from posting in this forum.


      1. Buds4All February 11, 2018 6:14 pm

        You must be as crooked as she is!


  10. Anagram February 11, 2018 8:28 pm

    Just another dirty, lying politician creating bills to benefit herself…pfft
    DO THE PEOPLE OF YOUR DISTRICT A FAVOR & RESIGN


  11. Michael Drutar February 12, 2018 7:46 am

    Both Dru Kanuha and Karen Eoff did not meet at any time whatsoever with the West Hawaii Association of Realtors, which represents over 750 licensed agents and brokers in West Hawaii. Meeting with the Hawaii Island Realtors, a much smaller Board with a vast majority of members on the Hilo side, is not representing their constituency. Mrs. Eoff’s statements that this bill was constructed with any iRealtor organization in the State of Hawaii is an attempt to show broad support for her bill. I can say without reservation there is no Realtor organization in the state which supports this bill. We will be more active in working to defeat this bill than any bill we have seen.


    1. Michael Cron February 14, 2018 11:31 am

      Did Karen Eoff really lie about owning a condo at the Islander Inn? If so, she should resign or be removed from office. Talk about a conflict of interest! Also, recent sales at the Islander Inn are twice the appraised value of her unit. That indicates she is not paying her fair share of taxes. I wonder if she has alerted the proper County Officials so they can update the assessment of her condo?


  12. Joan Sheldon February 12, 2018 8:45 am

    Just because our President lies, does not make it right….. Anyone who is caught in an out and out lies, as this appears to be the case, is a terrible role model and should be ousted from public office. She knows the difference between gross and net, after deducting expenses, including depreciation, and whatever she can find to maybe qualify as an expense she might show a loss, but with the number of vacationers looking for a cheap rental, she is probably renting it a LOT….making it a profitable investment.


  13. Lance Owens February 12, 2018 8:51 pm

    As the current President of the West Hawaii Association of Realtors I am here to state, undeniably that we have NEVER been contacted, consulted with, or even given a heads up on this new bill.
    We work closely with “Vacation Rental” brokerages, and I know of NOBODY (personally) that has been consulted with from West Hawaii.
    I have contacted the past President (of WHAR) , the president elect and the account executive to see if they have been contacted by Eoff, Kanuha, or the Mayor, the answer across the board is NO, No,
    1: Statements like : We are working closely with the Hawaii Island Realtors? As a member of the public you would have no idea that the Hawaii Island Board of Realtors” is a Hilo based board with a majority of its members based in Hilo (a board with great respect and we work closely with) , but we are 2 different “demographics” . Both demographics need to be weighed out evenly. Implications here are misleading to the general public.
    2: when disclosure of ownership in a “vacation rental” is in question by a council member that co-authors this bill – this scares me. Especially being in the Real Estate business, they advertise these units in this complex at an “average $80-$100 a night”, you don’t need a math degree to figure out how quick the $1,000 threshold can be met.
    I honestly feel this bill needs to be tabled, the co-author needs to recuse herself from voting – more to come


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