OHA Trustees excluded


Source: July 2010 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Monthly Column

Chair Apoliona goes out of her way to exclude trustees from board discussions.  For example:


Back in April, the SEC brought a civil action against Goldman Sachs, one of OHA’s two money managers, because of “a single transaction in 2007 involving two professional institutional investors.”  Goldman assured us that they believe the SEC’s allegations were “completely unfounded both in law and fact,” and that they would vigorously defend themselves.  Every trustee had reason to be deeply concerned since, as of December 31, 2009, Goldman managed $171,649,375 of OHA’s Trust Fund.

On April 20, 2010, Goldman invited OHA to meet with them in New York on May 7, 2010 for an explanation.  Chairperson Apoliona, Trustees Machado and Stender, and CEO Namuo traveled to New York for the meeting.  I did not submit a request to travel so I don’t know if the Chair denied travel for anyone else.

On April 21, 2010, Goldman offered to provide Trustees that could not attend the New York meeting with a “live video conference feed” from their office to our boardroom.  This would allow all of us to at least listen in on the Goldman meeting.

Then suddenly, on April 23, 2010, the OHA Board Counsel cancelled the Goldman videoconference, most likely at the request of the Chairperson.  At the request of Trustee Heen, the Board Counsel wrote a legal opinion to explain his position.  The Board Counsel felt that, since Goldman refused to allow the video conference to be viewed by the public in an open meeting, OHA would end up breaking the Sunshine Law.  Since none of the trustees I have spoken to have actually seen any communication from Goldman Sachs objecting to an open meeting, I am not convinced that there was such a communication.

There were other ways to allow the trustees to listen in and still stay within the law.  For example, we could have gone into executive session during the “sensitive” portions of the broadcast.  While it wouldn’t have been the most ideal solution, Chair Apoliona has shown in the past that she has no problems taking things into executive session, even when it is not necessary except to keep the public from hearing what is going on.

It is clear to me that this was just a deliberate attempt to keep the majority of the board from hearing what Goldman had to say.  At the time of the writing of this article, there has been NO report to the Board of Trustees from Trustees Apoliona, Stender, or Machado regarding their New York meeting.


Another example of Chair Apoliona’s selective denial happened back in 2008, when, without even the proper authority, Apoliona denied my travel to South Dakota on official business as a board member of the Governors’ Interstate Indian Council (GIIC).  I am the only non-Indian member of this national organization representing Native Americans and Alaska Natives in all 50 states.  The GIIC has supported OHA’s efforts for federal recognition with five resolutions that have been sent to Congress on our behalf.


On May 4, 2010, the Board Counsel wrote another legal opinion about his decision to deny a Trustee from participating in a Board Workshop on April 22, 2010 by telephone.  The Trustee had been told by the Administration that it wouldn’t be a problem for him to participate over a speaker phone, but that decision was overruled by the Board Counsel, which went against OHA’s longstanding practice of allowing participation via telephone as long as the Trustee did not vote.


On April 26, 2010, each Trustee received an invitation letter from the Hawai`i State Society of Washington, D.C. to participate in the 2010 Kamehameha Lei draping ceremonies on June 6, 2010.  Trustees have supported and attended the ceremony since 2003; including the historic first ceremony in Emancipation Hall at the new Capitol Visitors Center in 2009.  Despite this, on May 3, 2010, the Chairperson denied travel for all Trustees except for herself and OHA staff members CEO Namuo, COO Stanton Enomoto, and Special Assistant to the CEO Martha Ross.

Meetings were scheduled by the Administration to meet with Federal Officials while in Washington, D.C. – meetings that the Trustees should have attended.  This has become a common practice with this Chair.  Despite this denial, I elected to pay my own way to Washington, D.C. as I had an important meeting scheduled at the White House.

Chairperson Apoliona must stop interfering with our right to represent the beneficiaries that elected us.  Sadly, this has been going on for the last eight years.


In a May 3rd e-mail to the Trustees, Chair Apoliona explained that she was denying travel for the 2010 Kamehameha Lei draping in D.C. on June 6th, because of economic reasons, not mentioning that there were also important meetings scheduled with Federal Officials that Trustees should have attended.  Chair Apoliona wrote:

“Since 2009 Trustees have been asked to limit requests for out of state travel due to our downturn in the economy and the impact on OHA resources.  Although there is demonstration of what appears to be an ‘improving’ economy, we all continue to be vigilant and cautious.”  “…even in 2010 we should remain cautious about out of state travel costs and continue to manage out-of-State travel requests prudently.” — OHA Chair Haunani Apoliona

However, the Chair failed to mention that while she was denying Trustees’ travel, three OHA staff members went instead of Trustees.  While in D.C., OHA paid for a reception for 200 people, including entertainment.  How much did this cost our beneficiaries?  What about the “downturn in the economy?”

While I understand her reasons for being “cautious” with our spending during this economic downturn, a quick review of OHA’s recent spending shows that she is at worse a hypocrite and, at best, full of baloney.  For example, at a time when our people are living homeless on beaches, OHA authorized spending the following on June 3, 2010:

  • $100,000 to sponsor a Native Hawaiian men’s health conference in June 2010; and
  • $100,000 to sponsor an International Indigenous Health Conference.  There was no mention of how many Hawaiians were going to be able to attend this Conference.

The Administration also proposed to transfer $421,300 in education grant money to fund a “Continent Community Education” program in Hi’ilei Aloha LLC, a nonprofit that currently manages Waimea Valley.  This program would have given OHA funds to an organization outside of the Trustee’s direct oversight.  Hi’ilei Aloha would then determine who gets to travel to the mainland to educate people about the Akaka bill.  My guess is that her relative, who now works with Hi’ilei Aloha, would be doing most of the traveling, since that was the case when she worked for OHA.  This highly questionable proposal was quickly scuttled after several trustees and I brought up serious concerns at the board table, specifically that this private organization would in fact end up doing the work that OHA Trustees are charged to do.


Just about five years ago, OHA’s budget was around $23 million.  Today, OHA’s budget has ballooned to $42,107,095.  A whopping $12,320,998 is spent on salaries and benefits.  Another $7,541,655 is spent on work that is contracted outside of OHA.  Only $1,410,130 is spent on OHA programs to assist our beneficiaries!  What’s up with that?


I have always said that OHA’s two committee system allows too many important issues to slip through the cracks.  The system was put into place by Chair Apoliona to consolidate her control over the Board of Trustees.  Since the two committee chairs have to oversee every function of the Board, there are just too many issues for each committee chair to consider and a lot of important issues fall through the cracks.  Things are so bad now that almost nothing is being done by the committees.

The Asset and Resource Management (ARM), chaired by Trustee Stender, meets only twice a month (if there are no sudden cancellations), despite the huge swings in the stock market and the volatile nature of the world economy.  Also, the ARM committee is responsible for evaluating OHA programs and deciding whether to continue, modify, or terminate their funding, but this has not occurred for the past several years.  The State Auditor’s recent report will back this up.

In the past year, the ARM committee has cancelled or rescheduled many meetings, reducing the number of meetings we have in a month.  For example:

  • The August 5, 2009 and September 2, 2009 ARM Committee Meetings were cancelled.
  • The September 23, 2009 meeting was rescheduled to September 22, 2009.  Since there was no quorum for the September 22, 2009 meeting, it was postponed.
  • The ARM Committee meeting scheduled for May 12, 2010 was cancelled.  There were no ARM meetings in all of May 2010.

Since Trustee Stender has chaired the ARM committee, OHA has not taken its budget out into the community as required by law.

The Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment (BAE) committee, Chaired by Trustee Colette Machado, is responsible for developing programs which focus on beneficiary health, human services, native rights and education and evaluate all OHA programs to ensure a positive impact on our beneficiaries.  Not only has the BAE Chair failed to develop any new programs, she is actually trying to eliminate them.  Just ask members of the Native Hawaiian Historic Preservation Council (NHHPC).  In fact, since Chairperson Apoliona has chaired the Board and Trustees Machado and Stender have chaired the two Committees, virtually all OHA programs have been discontinued.

Another byproduct of this system is that the active participation of the six other trustees has been cut-off.  The only thing that the other Trustees get to do is vote on whatever is being brought to the board or committee table.  In the past, the five committee system gave the majority of the trustees the responsibility of running a committee.  Today, I believe that the saddest result of the two committee system is that several of the trustees have become apathetic.  They aren’t as interested in board affairs since they are not consulted about any subject matters prior to a meeting.  Chair Apoliona has also acquiesced trustees’ power to the CEO, which further exacerbates the problem.

Chair Apoliona always likes to say that OHA has never been better.  There is no truth to that statement.  There was a time when Trustees were passionate about the issues near and dear to their hearts; worked tirelessly to improve the lives of our beneficiaries; and when the moral of our employees were at its best.  Let us look for change in the November elections.  Aloha pumehana.

Apoliona Sells Out Hawaiians


Source: November 2008 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

During this past legislative session I strongly opposed HB 266, HD because the bill, if passed into law, would bind us to a settlement agreement that was signed between OHA and the State on January 17, 2008.  The agreement contained language that will forever extinguish all rights afforded to Native Hawaiians under section 4 and 6 of Article XII of the State Constitution. 

Apoliona tried to rush through a settlement with the state so that she could claim she settled our 28-year-old dispute during her bid for re-election.  Apoliona was willing to sell-out all Hawaiians, both now and in the future, by signing an agreement that would forever give up any claims we have to land and natural resources.  Hoping that no one would read the language of the agreement, Apoliona kept it a secret until she finally revealed it in January to the legislature.

Apoliona was confident that she could sneak this bill through the legislature before anyone caught on to this betrayal.  Unfortunately for her, the general public, Hawaiian beneficiaries, and the legislators did not agree that this was legislation that should be passed and over a hundred people testified against it.  In the end, the legislature killed the bill and told OHA to take any future agreements out to the public for hearings.  This has not occurred as of the writing of this article.

The following is the exact language that was contained in the agreement Apoliona signed:

“For claims on or after July 1, 2008: For each and every fiscal year following June 30, 2008, during which OHA retained the statutory right to receive an annual payment of income and proceeds from the public land trust lands of at least $15,100,000, OHA releases, waives, and forever discharges any and all claims of any kind concerning, relating to, or arising out of each and every claim for damages or any other relief against the STATE, or its departments, agencies, officers, or employees, by the office or any other person or entity, with respect to any controversy, claim, cause of action, or right of action arising out of, or relating to any right OHA or any other person or entity may have to income, proceeds, or any other tangible right, item, or benefit from the public land trust under section 4 and 6 of Article XII of the Constitution or any statute or act.  Such claims are forever barred, and to the extent any waiver of sovereign immunity for such a suit, claim, cause of action, or right of action still exists, that waiver is withdrawn by the Proposed Legislation.”

The language above also conflicts with the Akaka bill, specifically the section that allows for the United States and the State of Hawaii to enter into negotiations with the future Native Hawaiian governing entity to addressing such matters as the transfer of lands, natural resources, and other assets, and the protection of existing rights related to such lands or resources and also to address grievances regarding assertions of historical wrongs committed against Native Hawaiians by the United States or by the State of Hawaii.

It was for these reasons that I strongly opposed HB266, HD2 and ask the legislative committees to hold the bill until a more favorable agreement can be worked out by the Governor’s administration, the Legislature, Native Hawaiian beneficiaries, and OHA.

Everyone knows that OHA’s mission is to advocate for the betterment of our beneficiaries, so how could Apoliona sign an agreement that would extinguish the rights of all our beneficiaries to future entitlements including rights to surface and ground water and mineral resources?


          Since December of 2007, Apoliona has been bullying the administrator about approving my travel to the Cook Islands and questioning why the Premier of the country invited me and not her.  Apoliona’s non-stop harassment, micro-managing, and need to control everything has finally proved too much for him.

She recently used a Star Bulletin reporter to question me on why my airfare was more expensive than other trustees traveling on one particular trip to Washington, D.C.  This was one of the few times this happened and as those of you who have traveled to the continent know, your ticket price varies based on when you make your reservations.  Our trips to Washington are usually based on when the Akaka bill is heard and we don’t have a lot of time to rework our schedules before we can commit to traveling.

Apoliona never mentioned to that reporter that on one of her own trips to Washington, D.C., she spend nearly $9,000!  She also never mentioned that she outspent every trustee that ever served on the OHA board, with over $56,000 in one fiscal year of travel.


Astonishingly, even though our Executive Policy manual clearly states that the Administrator has the power to authorize travel for trustees, he has chosen to let the Chairperson take over this duty before the new policy has been officially passed!

Without even the proper authority, Apoliona has denied my travel to South Dakota for official business.  For the past five years, I have been a board member of the Governor’s Interstate Indian Council.  I am the only non-Indian member.  This organization has supported our efforts for federal recognition with five resolutions that have been sent to Congress on our behalf.  This organization represents Native Americans and Alaska Natives in all 50 states.

This is one small example of the many punitive things Apoliona does to her fellow trustees who do not support her efforts to overspend, break procurement laws, withhold information from trustees and beneficiaries, and encouraging a “wild west” behavior at OHA for the last five years.


  • Beneficiaries should question why OHA spent over $37,000 on the mayoral debate, but spent zero dollars on a forum or debate for OHA candidates.  Wouldn’t an OHA candidate’s forum be more important to our beneficiaries than a mayor’s race?
  • Apoliona would never agree to a candidate’s debate for OHA.  She would have to answer the many questions beneficiaries have about all the money OHA has spent during her term as Chairwoman with no results or benefits that directly impact our people.
  • Everyone should question why Apoliona and her cronies did not question the Governor’s motives for appealing the State Supreme Court’s ruling that said the state could not engage in the sale of ceded lands until it reaches a settlement with Native Hawaiians.

The Governor appealed this all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has recently granted the state the right to present its case before them.  This is the Governor who said that she believed that the Hawaiian people deserve to be compensated for the wrongs done to them.  This is the Governor that Apoliona has been in agreement with in signing-off on the future of entitlements for Hawaiians.  Who is Apoliona representing?

Apoliona has put Native Hawaiians in a NO WIN situation.  The Governor is fully aware that there is currently no justice for any native people at the U.S. Supreme Court.  We all know what happened to us in the “Rice Case” when we went before the Supreme Court.  That decision has led to nearly ten years of constant litigation.


In this election year, voters can make the necessary changes and elect people who work cooperatively with others for the benefit of our people, in a manner that is open and transparent.  This is my hope for CHANGE.

Apoliona and Machado have proven that they cannot be trusted with the future of our native people.  Mahalo Ke Akua.