Evictions planned at iconic church

  • A fraction of the families facing eviction gathers on the steps of Mauna Ziona Church in Kalaoa. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Mauna Ziona Church in Kalaoa was sold at a tax aucton and worshipers were locked out by the new owners. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • The door to Mauna Ziona Church in Kalaoa has new locks installed. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Tom Anthony, a Hawaiian Kingdom advocate, gives Mayor Harry Kim an earful Monday in Hilo about impending evictions at the Mauna Ziona Church property in North Kona. (Nancy Cook Lauer/West Hawaii Today)
  • Tom Anthony, a Hawaiian Kingdom advocate, gives Mayor Harry Kim an earful Monday in Hilo about impending evictions at the Mauna Ziona Church property in North Kona. (Nancy Cook Lauer/West Hawaii Today)

  • A fraction of the families facing eviction gather on the steps of Mauna Ziona Church in Kalaoa. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Tom Anthony, a Hawaiian Kingdom advocate, gives Mayor Harry Kim an earful Monday in Hilo about impending evictions at the Mauna Ziona Church property in North Kona. (Nancy Cook Lauer/West Hawaii Today)
  • Former Kahu Norman Keanaaina stands in front of Mauna Ziona Church in Kalaoa in January 2016. (Laura Shimabuku/West Hawaii Today)

HILO — Thirteen families living on Mauna Ziona Church property in North Kona are likely to be evicted in the coming weeks, more than two years after the property was purchased at county tax auction by the Free Church of Tonga-Kona.

The families claim the right to live on the land, although they don’t claim ownership, by virtue of an 1889 encumbrance and conveyance deed, handwritten in Hawaiian and recorded with the state Bureau of Conveyances. A representative of the families said this is the latest generation of many who have lived on the land after being awarded a royal patent.


District Court Judge Margaret Masunaga signed judgments for possession of the property on April 10, according to court filings. The families named are Kamanawa, Torres, Kala, Alapai, Kahumoku, Hoomanaunui, Mahi, Kahikina, Ua, Lapa, Kamoku, Keliihuluhulu and Peahi.

The families said they weren’t served eviction papers.

The families, including children in strollers and babies in arms, met Monday with Mayor Harry Kim. They asked him to intercede in the coming evictions, but Kim said it was out of his hands.

In what became a tense standoff with Kim, Tom Anthony, a representative of the Hawaiian Kingdom, who is not listed as a party to the evictions in the court documents, told the mayor “Tongans with machetes” stormed the property and cut chains and padlocks on buildings. The Hawaiian people, he said, have now been locked out of their church.

“These Tongans came into our church with machetes and threatened us,” Anthony told Kim. “Did you sell our church to the Tongans?”

Kim said when he took office, he swore an oath to uphold the federal and state constitutions. He suggested the group find legal representation and take the matter to the courts.

“There is no basis for an investigation. The subject properties was duly assessed and subject to the paramount lien of real property taxes, penalties, and interest,” Kim said in a followup letter Wednesday to Keliihuluhulu Alfred Spinney and Ekalesia Hoole Pope o Kekaha. “During the tax delinquency period, there was no request for a church exemption by you or others of your church filed with the Real Property Tax Division of the county.”

Spinney and Kekaha made similar claims in an April 13 email to Carlsmith Ball, the law firm handling the evictions.

“(Carlsmith Ball attorney) Mr. (Robert) Triantos, prior to the filing of his complaint, caused a group of Tongans, armed with cane knives and other things, to lock us out of our church and they are continuing to terrorize us and our kuleana tenants,” they said in the email.

“We have the videos showing this and will be turning them over, with our complaint, to the (Department of Justice) and FBI. You know that we are not trespassing on any property belonging to your client and because we are not trespassers Mr. Triantos is constructing fraud with his complaint,” they added.

The Free Church of Tonga bought the 10-acre church property at tax auction in January 2016, for $51,000. The adjacent 60 acres went for $422,000. Past-due owners were given 12 months to buy their property back by paying the auction price, plus 12 percent interest.

But Anthony said none of the Hawaiians claiming the right to live on the land were sent tax bills.

Activist Shelley Stevens Mahi had protested the auctioning of the two properties as well as several others she said were royal patent lands that belonged to the Hawaiian families who lived on them.

“The Hawaiians come with the land,” she told potential bidders of the Mauna Ziona property.

Property taxes hadn’t been paid on the iconic green wooden church with the red tin roof since 2009, when the Hawaii Conference United Church of Christ turned over the church to Pastor Norman Keanaaina as settlement in a lawsuit.

The conference had sued Keanaaina in 2007, after he filed a deed and affidavit with the state Bureau of Conveyances purporting ownership of the church. The Hawaii Conference United Church of Christ, a conference begun by missionaries in 1820, represents scores of primarily small churches throughout the state.


The county’s title search documents showed the nonprofit Mauna Ziona Church as fee owner, along with Jean Keka on the larger parcel. Keanaaina was listed as president of the nonprofit corporation in reports filed with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

He has since left the church and the controversy behind.

  1. sonneofmanisrael April 22, 2018 2:02 am

    Fraudulent churches, fraudulent courts, fraudulent county in a piece of paper state signifies since John the Baptist until now the violent take it by force. I never knew thee . Depart from me all ye which do evil. The Hawaiian families have a case. Will they bring the truth? No actual money was paid.

    1. diverdave April 23, 2018 11:28 am

      It’s funny how they can get motivated long after they should have made a claim on the conveyance they say was given to their long dead relative. It’s call PROBATE COURT. They should have had the claimed conveyance changed to their name after said relative died. You can’t wait 100 years after the rightful heirs should have done this to make a claim on it now. Was there a will. NO. Did they go to Court then. NO.

      1. Hawaiian patriotism April 24, 2018 8:30 pm

        More hypothetical’s, be nice if it were true huh, I mean ur views, looks like you rely on these lower courts to decide your rights, Good luck with that!

        1. diverdave April 24, 2018 11:07 pm

          “Fraudulent churches, fraudulent courts, fraudulent county in a piece of paper state”, typical response from a sovereignty fringer.
          If a court case goes your way its “righteousness” if it doesn’t “the court is fraudulent!”. Just too silly. LOL!

    2. Hawaiian patriotism April 24, 2018 8:31 pm

      Amene, amene amene!

  2. Kawaii April 22, 2018 6:56 am

    Wow. If no one took a picture I wouldn’t believe it. Every man knows this is a threatening posture and prelude to violence. This man needs to calm down and understand that the property tax wasn’t paid since 2009.

    1. Ekalesia April 22, 2018 1:02 pm

      should of saw when his posture was sorta lazy like and non aggressive but only a trained journalist can capture these Kodak moments!

  3. Servite Omak April 22, 2018 8:09 am

    ten acres for 50k? wow !!!! It is nice to know corruption at the highest levels is alive and well in Hawaii, (sarc).good job Kim braddah, nice little chunk of change going into your swiss bank account eh?

    1. diverdave April 23, 2018 11:05 am

      Harry isn’t my favorite guy, but he had nothing to do with it.

  4. antifaHI April 22, 2018 8:09 am

    That’s the problem with these tax delinquent properties for sale by the county: Broken titles! The county makes it VERY clear when bidding before and after the auction that it’s the BIDDER/BUYERS responsibility and risk. Some properties have hundreds of potential heirs, dead, disappeared, or nowhere to be found. The low prices are tempting to take the risk for many.

  5. Hawaiian patriotism April 22, 2018 6:07 pm

    This reporter (Nancy Cook) obviously has an agenda, we told her that we are not Mauna Ziona Church; we, Ekalesia Hoole Pope o Kekaha told her we are not apart of any court case that West Hawaii Newspaper have been following since 2007 or 2008 or 2009 or 2016; Now, for the first time that we maybe named as parties we are all allegedly found to be in default because Richard Ramirez the process server for Carlsmith Ball LLP and their lawyer Robert D. Triantos said we are all served with the complaint and that we have all refuse to sign service, how convenient, the Affidavits of the families filed in this matter say different, especially with those who were at work, at dialysis and at other parts of the islands when Ramirez swore under penalty of perjury that these families were given notice of this complaint; we and of course none of our church buildings and properties are apart of any sale of lands the county sold at anytime, our appointment with the Mayor was to ask him 1 question; “DID YOU (MAYOR KIM) SELL OUR CHURCH BUILDING AND PROPERTY” of course to he has not answered this question, and as we understand, the Mayor is Race Baiting to pit one race against another race (Tongans against Hawaiian) and religious baiting (Free Church of Tonga against Ekalesia Hoole Pope o Kekaha) this type of activity from the Mayors office is irresponsible and he has left this mess up to us the people of the Hawaiian Islands to wipe and clean up his SHT, there’s more STAY TUNE

  6. metalman808 April 23, 2018 9:45 am

    I wonder how many of these people voted for their eviction landlord Harry Kim.

    1. diverdave April 23, 2018 10:55 am

      The law evicted them,NOT Harry.

      1. Hawaiian patriotism April 24, 2018 8:20 pm

        The law is what will protect them, your hypothetical sounds nice? There are many hypothetical’s only 1 truth, are you talking facts about what is happening or dicta?

    2. Hawaiian patriotism April 24, 2018 8:36 pm

      If I vote for someone, it’ll be for specific reasons, what that person does after he or she gets into office is an entirely different matter!

  7. diverdave April 23, 2018 9:56 am

    The fact is, while a current owner may allow you to stay on their
    property, if the property taxes are not paid and the current owner that
    bought the property at tax sale does not want you there your conveyance
    may end, and you must leave.

  8. BeGood April 23, 2018 2:12 pm

    What an interesting stories. I once read few years ago about this church that went up for auction, due to the known payment on the taxes. “Which was very sad to see”. A pastor who claimed he was a care taker “like it say’s”, A nonprofit church, organized by Pastor Norman Keainaina

    Many family’s and several Congregational who claim then and now lived there paid this pastor to up keep the maintenance of the church grounds, which set on 72 acre of land. So why? did it go into Foreclose/Auction 2016. was he doing the work of the lord or just steeling from family’s like the people who sit in this picture. “Most of who could be family related to this pastor or Mr. Alfred Spinney” I see that there is a young boy who is his nephew and the wife below him in sun glasses.

    These family who’s claim to live there for year’s had no knowledge of what this pastor was doing.
    If you say you are the rightful Hawaiians who claim this church land. Then, “why didn’t you come forward to redeem the property and pay the tax’s with this pastor?. “So can you really be upset with “Free Church of Tonga? Therefore should we look down on other’s for saving the church land. “I think not” It is a blessing for those who did.

    That take me to another question? Keainaaina listed as president of the nonprofit corporation filed with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer affairs. “don;’t you think they would do a investigation on him! As to how and what he was receiving, from the church members. I mean, if you run a church and receive profit’s by the members. Don’t you keep a record of this information in a book or computer. “Technology today is great, makes running a business easy and organized. There is a lot more to this story and to me it is a way of making the public feel sorry for them.

    It is time for us to know the truth and stop what is happening to cleanse this land of greed and croup especially by a pastor who say’s he served the lord.

    Harry Kim is right. It is out of his hands. You, should of paid the land tax’s. It is not his STUPIDITY!! It is your’s for paying the pastor, who did not pay the tax’s!

    Only, Time will come to see the true light of what happen to the family’s who really belong there.

    1. Hawaiian patriotism April 24, 2018 8:32 pm

      I can’t wait to see what happens!

  9. blunt TrUth April 23, 2018 3:30 pm

    I don’t understand… says “FREE CHURCH”. Could not the Tongans and Hawaiians all live there in peace for a measly few hundred bucks per family ? They could have many fine feasts by combining all EBT resources.

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