DLNR declines settlement offer for grave damage

More than a year after the state Department of Land and Natural Resources sought to fine the Edwin C. Olson Trust No. 2 for damage allegedly done to a plantation camp cemetery by heavy machinery, a settlement still has not been reached.

The settlement, however, was on the agenda for the July 26 meeting of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

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A DLNR spokesman said settlement discussions are still underway, but Jeff Clark, the trust’s chief financial officer, said Tuesday the board voted to decline a proposed settlement of $35,000.

A revised settlement offer of the full amount of the original fine — about $55,000 — with no admission of guilt in the matter, “is the offer on the table right now,” he said. “So the trust is reviewing its options and we’ll proceed very shortly. We haven’t taken a position yet on the direction that the trust is going to take.”

Clark said, “I would imagine in the next week or so we’ll make a decision one way or another — whether we’ll pay the fine and move on or not.”

The 18.5-acre property in question is located off Amauulu Road, mauka of Clem Akina Park in Pu‘u‘eo. The cemetery was associated with the Amauulu camp, DLNR said previously.

In March 2016, the Ed Olson Trust No. 2 was having trees cleared on the property, supposedly for agricultural purposes, according to a state Historic Preservation Division report submitted to the Land Board. After being notified the work needed approval from Hawaii County, the landowner applied for an “after-the-fact” grubbing and grading permit.

A land manager contacted the Historic Preservation Division to obtain input on the “disposition of the cemetery” as part of the application, according to the report. An agency archaeologist then documented several headstones, including a crypt, that were overturned or damaged on the property.

According to the report, it was apparent the damage to several burial sites occurred as a result of the land clearing that already had taken place. The archaeologist wrote there was “clear evidence” heavy equipment had been in the cemetery.

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In December 2017, Olson denied being responsible for any of the damage.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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