A Maui resident who calls himself a “disabled Native Hawaiian veteran” is accusing a company controlled by tech billionaire Larry Ellison of blocking his access to a local beach, prompting the authorities to intervene and threaten the firm with fines.
Russell deJetley filed a complaint recently against Lanai Resorts, accusing it of blocking access to Hulopoe Beach Park, which lies on the southern tip of the island of Lanai.
Ellison, the co-founder of tech giant Oracle whose net worth has been valued by Forbes at $109.5 billion, purchased 98% of the island of Lanai for a reported $300 million a decade ago.
Even though all of the shorelines in Hawaii are public land, the Ellison-controlled Lanai Resorts is the owner of the gate and adjacent park leading to Hulupoe Beach Park, according to Honolulu Civil Beat.
Hulupoe Beach Park is considered a favorite spot where families come to barbecue and camp near the ocean.
A representative for Pulama Lanai, the subsidiary of Lanai Resorts that manages the privately owned land, told Civil Beat that the gate was shut in order to deal with flooding that was caused by massive swells last month — a claim that was rejected by DeJetley. He said that access to the area was blocked even after floodwaters subsided.
“As a disabled Native Hawaiian veteran, I just felt like it was just a slap in the face,” deJetley said.
He told Civil Beat that he emailed Lanai Resorts on July 26 — more than a week after the floodwaters dissipated. When he didn’t hear back and the gate was still shut, he decided to file a complaint.
The complaint from deJetley — who reportedly suffers from a neurological condition that requires him to use a mobility scooter, walker, or cane to get around — prompted Maui County to issue a warning to Lanai Resorts.
“We have information that the park was closed during times when there were no severe weather emergencies or emergency proclamations that required the park to be closed,” Maui County planning officials wrote in an Aug. 1 letter to Ellison’s company.
If the company abide by requirements to keep the metal gate leading to the beach open 24/7, it risks a fine of $100,000 — plus an additional $10,000 for each day the gate remains shut.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that local residents on Lanai have had to bear the burden of a soaring cost of living ever since Ellison bought most of the island.
Since taking control of the 90,000-acre island, Lanai has seen small businesses disappear while high-end restaurants like Nobu cater to an uber-wealthy clientele.