Mahi Pono engages the hammer
California water lawyer Tim O’Laughlin, aka “The Hammer,” joined Mahi pono as the new COO, a development that should strike fear in the hearts of all those working to protect Maui’s water. The biography of his former law firm describes him as advising clients “on matters relating to water, land use planning and the environment”. People who have worked with him say that his specialty is the privatization of public water.
The sanitized announcement of O’Laughlin’s hiring will be posted in Maui News, But MauiTime has been collecting information on O’Laughlin since his name emerged several months ago as a possible Mahi Pono player.
The Sacramento-based attorney is a brutal litigator and attorney for many California water agencies, and has long been associated with Trinitas Partners, dating back to when the three directors – Ryon Paton, William Hooper and Kirk Hoiberg – decided to turn their expertise into investing / real estate on farmland in central California.
They bought thousands of acres of ranch around Oakdale, Calif., And turned it into almond farms, growing one of the thirstiest crops in an area where water was carefully distributed. . This is the same Trinitas who partnered with the Canadian pension fund PSP to create Mahi Pono.
In a particular chain of events, the lands of Trinitas were annexed to the Oakdale Irrigation District (OID is represented by O’Laughlin) and began to receive water before the older members of the district , a controversial decision that still irritates farmers in the region today.
On July 23, shortly after O’Laughlin was listed as a possible Mahi Pono witness at a meeting of the Maui Water Supply Board, environmental group Protect Oakdale’s Water wrote on its website. : “Is it ethical for an OID lawyer who is paid?” beautifully representing the Oakdale taxpayer-owned irrigation district to simultaneously represent the men who control Trinitas, considering Trinitas still owes the OID millions of dollars and is one of the district’s largest water customers ? Conflict of interest?”
O’Laughlin’s announcement pretty much confirms the growing perception that Mahi Pono is far more interested in water than in planting crops and that his leaders have no desire to put down roots in the community.
Consider the current composition of the management: Ryon Paton, a non-farmer investor based in California; President Ann Chin, former California-based financial analyst; Ceil Howe III, Member of the Calfornia farming family who became a water broker; and senior vice president of operations Shan Tsutsui, who freely admits that he has no farming experience (but lives here). And now the water warrior, COO O’Laughlin, who probably won’t be residing here either.
Don’t expect Tsutsui to be more than a name on a business card – remember, he never gave up his original position as a managing partner of lobbying firm Strategies 360 based in O ahu when he joined Mahi Pono, and was just spotted making a hiring ad in a Strategies 360 press release the other day.
In the meantime, O’Laughlin’s heavy hand is already being felt in the not-so-secret ongoing settlement discussions between Mahi Pono and Hui o Na Wai Eha. Sources say MauiTime that Hui’s negotiators fret over the brutal treatment they are receiving in talks to try to settle the next contested case between the two entities over water use.
O’Laughlin used to play hard ball in California in the big league. Our aloha spirit may not be up to the task.