RAFU STAFF REPORT
Less than a month after stepping in as president and chief executive officer of Keiro, Gene Kanamori finds himself grappling with the complexities of a class-action lawsuit brought by a donor alleging that the senior care organization fraudulently solicited donations.
On Dec. 28, 2018, Jonathan Kaji of Rancho Palos Verdes filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging that the 2015 decision to sell Keiro’s facilities to a for-profit company changed its mission and misled donors.
“We have communicated to Mr. Kaji’s attorneys that we will fight these false and egregious allegations,” Kanamori announced in an April 10 statement.
“These allegations are not true and have no merit,” Kanamori asserts. “Our mission has been and continues to be to enhance the quality of senior life in our community. We will continue to look for ways to improve our services to our senior community through health education, grant-making, community partnerships and collaboration.”
Learning of the Kaji lawsuit, Koreisha Senior Care and Advocacy (KSCA), a group that is not a party to the litigation, issued its own response:
“It is time for Keiro to honor their commitment to our community by establishing culturally sensitive healthcare facilities for our seniors. Keiro’s funds should be used for its originally intended and specific purpose to provide for the residents in the facilities. Keiro should be held accountable for the millions of dollars and countless hours of services they received from the donors and volunteers of the community over the past 50 years.”
Kaji took the action as trustee of the Bruce T. Kaji and Frances M. Kaji 1982 Family Trust. Bruce Kaji, a longtime community leader and Japanese American National Museum founder, passed away in October 2017. His wife, Frances, passed away in November 2016.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Jonathan Kaji launched an online fundraising campaign via social media to generate funds to be used for the lawsuit.
According to Kaji, “(Keiro) abandoned the 605 elderly residents and now sits on $82 million. “We want the funds to provide new senior housing and health care services for the residents before they are forced out.”
Kaji adds, “My parents and I were longtime financial supporters of Keiro Services. My parents donated funds towards the Living Treasures Endowment Fund and actively raised funds (for) the South Bay community for Keiro facilities with the understanding that those funds would go towards supporting the facilities-based care of the elderly residents.
“At no time did Keiro seek or obtain permission from my family or the thousands of other individual, family, and corporate donors to sell the facilities.”
Among other allegations, the suit points to Keiro’s 50th-anniversary fundraising dinner held in 2011, during which “every written and verbal communication…indicated that the funds raised at the event would be used to ensure the continuance of Keiro’s senior care facilities.”
The Kaji Trust contributed $60 at the time. However, Kaji estimates that the Trust has donated “at least $50,000” to Keiro over the years.
Kanamori disagrees with Kaji’s characterization of Keiro, saying, “In 2018 alone, Keiro advanced a culturally responsive palliative care program, a social services resource program for those with pressing needs and social innovation programming as well as continued a grants program that supported dozens of local community organizations’ older adult services.”
The sale of Keiro Services facilities, consisting of the Keiro Retirement Home and Intermediate Care facility in Boyle Heights, the Keiro Nursing Home in Lincoln Heights, and the South Bay Keiro Nursing Home in Gardena, was completed in February 2016.
Although the lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, Kaji’s press release explains, “It has been made clear to Keiro that what is really being sought is the continuation of Keiro’s original mission.”