State Ethics Commission Bungled Investigation

`Ano`ai kakou… On July 17, 2012, I asked the State Ethics Commission’s Executive Director to investigate whether a trustee’s vote to approve OHA’s purchase of a property being financed by Bank of Hawaii, for which she also serves as a Director on their board, was a violation of HRS §84-14 – Conflicts of interests, which states that no employee may take any official action directly affecting a business in which the employee has a substantial financial interest. This includes elected state board members, such as OHA trustees.

Despite my numerous attempts to follow-up, nothing happened for ten months. Then, on April 13, 2013, the trustee being investigated announced that she received letter from the Commission stating she did nothing wrong. I never received a response to my original complaint.

Just when I thought this was all going to be brushed under the rug, the Auditor of the State of Hawaii came out with her September 2013 Report No. 13-07 (to see a copy of the report visit the Auditor’s Website at: and harshly criticized the trustees’ vote to authorize the purchase of the Gentry building.

On pages 20-21 of Report No. 13-07, the State Auditor wrote:

“Trustees’ vote in favor of Gentry acquisition violated OHA investment policy

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Native Hawaiian Trust Fund Investment Policy provides that if a trustee has a personal involvement with any direct investment transaction, or even any perceived conflict of interest, the trustee must disclose the involvement immediately and be recused from both discussions and votes on the transaction.

Contrary to this policy, we found that the board’s decision to purchase the Gentry Pacific Design Center building, a $21.4 million property in Iwilei, hinged on the vote of a trustee who is also a member of the board of directors of the bank that offered the best financing for that acquisition.”

The Auditor concluded that:

“… the trustee’s actions may damage OHA’s reputation and undermine the agency’s credibility with beneficiaries and the public.”

The action also had serious consequences for OHA operations. We were surprised to learn on April 12, 2013 that the loan we got from Bank of Hawaii was not a “secured” loan and that it had to be backed by OHA Trust dollars. OHA’s Hawaii Direct Investment Policy requires that any “recourse” in connection with a loan be counted towards the $25 million maximum allocation. As a result, we can’t make any more investments in Hawaii until the acquisition of OHA’s corporate headquarters is complete.

While I will not comment on the competency of the State Ethics Commission’s investigative staff members, it boggles my mind that after a ten month investigation, they couldn’t find anything wrong with the trustees’ vote to purchase the Gentry building.

I believe the State Ethics Commission’s mishandling of the investigation sends the wrong message to other elected officials who think they can blatantly flout Hawaii’s conflict of interest laws. It also gives the negative perception that the Commission is simply there to protect the status quo instead of aggressively assuring clean ethics in the State of Hawaii.

Kakaako Makai properties sidelined by Gentry Pacific Design Center purchase

NOTE: This column that was censored from OHA’s August 2012 Ka Wai Ola Newspaper but later printed in the October 2012 issue.

`Ano`ai kakou…  As reported in the Pacific Business News (PBN) on July 11, 2012, the Gentry Pacific Design Center is being sold to the OHA.  The sale of the 185,787-square-foot center at 560 N. Nimitz Highway is scheduled to close in August.  The article did not disclose the sales price, but it reported that the building and its three parcels were assessed for about $28.8 million. [See “Office of Hawaiian Affairs to buy Gentry Pacific Design Center,” by Duane Shimogawa in the July 11, 2012 issue of Pacific Business News]

I am dismayed at the Trustees who authorized OHA to make this purchase.  Trustee Oswald Stender first brought the proposal before the board almost a year ago and it was quickly dropped because OHA had to move into the building for it to make financial sense.  None of the other Trustees wanted to move our headquarters there.  I thought the deal was dead, but it came back before the board on May 17, 2012.  The proposal failed again because Trustee Haunani Apoliona cited a conflict of interest because she was on the Board of Directors of the bank being considered to finance the purchase.  OHA’s Board Counsel agreed and recommended that she not vote.

Then, on June 7, 2012, the Board Counsel opined that Trustee Apoliona, miraculously, no longer had a conflict of interest because the Fiscal Committee Chairman took out any references to Trustee Apoliona’s bank within the proposal.  She was allowed to vote and together with Trustees Apo, Machado, Stender, and Waihee, authorized the CEO to make an offer to Gentry Pacific.

Trustees Hulu Lindsey, Robert Lindsey, and I voted against.  Trustee Cataluna abstained.  The four of us had serious concerns about the conditions under which OHA was required to make the purchase.  They include:

(1) The Trustees has less than one week to review the preliminary due diligence and never got to see the final due diligence report until after the purchase was made.

(2) The Gentry Center is 80-years-old and could have problematic lead paint and asbestos.

(3) There are several areas that need to be made ADA accessible.

(4) The electrical system needs to be updated.

(5) The cost and resulting disruption of relocating OHA to the Gentry Design Center.

(6) The cost of retrofitting the Gentry Design Center as an office building.

Given these unknowns, I personally felt very uncomfortable with the purchase.  During the community meetings regarding OHA’s Kakaako Makai settlement properties, we explained to the community that Kakaako would be a good place for economic development and a permanent home for OHA’s headquarters.

Now OHA is spending a great deal of money to renovate an 80-year-old building instead of using the same amount of money to build a brand new one.  It makes absolutely no sense.

Even though the purchase seems to be a done deal, at least four Trustees continue to have serious concerns about how the building was purchased.  I personally believe that purchasing the Gentry Design Center was not a fiscally prudent investment under trust law.

Hawaiians lost control of a $5 billion Trust Asset


August 2010 Ka Wai Ola Column

On December 14, 2006, the board of trustees authorized the Administrator and Chair Haunani Apoliona to negotiate with the Governor and the Federal Government so that OHA could have a meaningful role in the coordinated management of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument (now known as Papahanaumokuakea) that was established by George W. Bush through Presidential Proclamation 8112 of June 15, 2006.

During the vote, I expressed my deep concerns that OHA’s role should not be just limited to the oversight of the cultural and historic consultation aspects of Papahanaumokuakea but also the proper management and protection of its fishing resources.

After the Proclamation, Papahanaumokuakea was managed through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between (1) the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, (2) the U.S. Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and (3) the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  I was concerned that OHA was left out and asked the Administration if OHA could be added to this MOA at a later date.  They said, “Yes.”

Flash-forward to four years later and OHA is still not a part of the MOA and we are getting reports that Hawaiians are having a difficult time accessing Papahanaumokuakea and continuing their traditional practice of subsistence fishing.

Not only has OHA failed to become a full partner in the management of Papahanaumokuakea, one of our most sacred, culturally significant and environmentally sensitive sites, but now five OHA trustees (Apoliona, Machado, Stender, Mossman, and Waihee) are giving their de facto support for the current management arrangement by pushing for Papahanaumokuakea’s designation as a “prestigious” United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.

On July 8, 2010, the five trustees voted to support the Nomination of Papahanaumokuakea as a World Heritage Site despite a myriad of concerns including:

(1) In early 2009, the Marine Resources Committee of the American Bar Association concluded that the George W. Bush’s proclamations establishing Papahanaumokuakea were illegal and that the jurisdiction of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WESPAC) under the Magnusson-Stevens Act could not be terminated by the proclamation.

(2) The Bar Committee also certified that the process used by Bush had terminated any opportunity for meaningful public input.

(3) The Bush administration designated Monuments across the United States, on land as well as in the oceans.  In these areas, public and native rights have been ignored.

(4) The U.S Military has full access to Papahanaumokuakea and can come and go as they please.

(5) Other World Heritage Sites, such as the Galapagos Islands, have been permanently damaged from a massive increase in tourism after its designation.

I strongly support delaying the World Heritage Site designation for Papahanaumokuakea until there is genuine support for it from our beneficiaries and all of the concerns I have mentioned above have been properly addressed.  OHA has done polls regarding the Akaka bill in the past.  We should certainly do one for this issue.

The fisheries contained within Papahanaumokuakea have been valued at an estimated five billion dollars (US).  If it is properly and sustainably managed, it could provide the food that our future nation will need to survive, not to mention that theses lands are considered ceded.  We cannot allow such an important site to be under the sole control of the state and federal governments who have a long history of mismanaging our resources. 

OHA and the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council must be equal signatories to the MOA to ensure that Papahanaumokuakea will be protected.  There is absolutely no need for the state DLNR to be a signatory to this MOA.  DLNR has mismanaged ceded lands since 1959.  How can they possibly manage the islands and waters of Papahanaumokuakea?  The idea is beyond comprehension.

What do you think?  Shouldn’t you have an opportunity to voice your opinions on this important matter?

To view four video clips from the OHA Board of Trustees meeting on July 8, 2010 click on the following links:

(1) BOT 7-8-10 Board Counsel Opinion – Agenda Item Proper

(2) William Aila Jr. Supports Papahanaumokuakea as Heritage Site

(3) OHA BOT 7-8-10 Trustee Stender on Papahanaumokuakea

(4) OHA BOT 7-8-10 Mililani Trask on Papahanaumokuakea

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.

State Auditor confirms the lack of vision and foresight within OHA’s leadership


Source: March 2010 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

Back in September of 2009, the trustees were given a draft of State Auditor Marion Higa’s Investment Portfolio Review of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.  The 48-page report to the Governor and the State Legislature had many critical things to say about OHA’s investment structure and ability to carry out its duties.

Here are just a few of the Auditor’s concerns:

  • The board’s Investment Policy Statement (IPS) is inadequate to ensure potential conflicts and other violations are identified, reported, and resolved.
  • OHA does not have a “whistleblower” policy or a toll-free phone line available to OHA staff and beneficiaries to report potential conflicts, violations, or other issues.
  • OHA does not track general beneficiary concerns or complaints specifically related to the trust.  Complaints are therefore less likely to be reported and OHA cannot ensure complaints are properly received and resolved.

The Auditor also wrote that the Trust’s lackluster performance warrants review of the advisory service’s policies, processes, and performance.

  • The trust’s investments were underperforming for the majority of the review period of FY2004 to FY2008, not only failing to meet its own target earnings goals in nearly half of the quarters, but also falling below average nationwide peer performance in 18 of the 20 quarters reviewed.
  • OHA did not consistently monitor investment compliance during FY2004 to FY2008.  In addition, the investment advisors do not certify quarterly or annually that they are compliant with the trust’s investment guidelines.

On September 8, 2009, Chair Haunani Apoliona responded to the State Auditor and tried to address the concerns the Auditor brought up and what OHA planned to do about it.  It was clear that the Chair wanted the Auditor to soften the harsh report.

However, on October 1, 2009, I received a copy of the State Auditor’s Final Report and, to no surprise to me, nothing substantive was changed.  The Auditor concluded that:

  • While a cursory reading of the board’s response may appear to contradict the Auditor’s findings, in most instances the board challenged secondary points but ultimately acknowledged the major points of the Auditor’s findings.
  • Moreover, many of those arguments misconstrued the facts presented in the Auditor’s report.
  • The Auditor’s final report contains only a few editorial changes based on the board’s response.

On October 2, 2009, an obviously irritated Chair Apoliona personally responded to the Auditor, complaining that she could have gone over the auditor’s comments point-by-point but chose to focus on the “big picture.”

In a memo dated October 23, 2009, I wrote that I agreed with many of the criticisms made by the State Auditor.  Further, Chair Apoliona should focus on making the much needed changes that the State Auditor suggested.  Only then can we move forward as an organization and do better for our beneficiaries.

If you are interested in reading the State Auditor’s report on OHA in its entirety, please visit the State Auditor’s website at  Until the next time.  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.

Who does Winona Rubin work for?

By: Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Letter sent to The Garden Island Editor, October 15, 2008

I feel it is important for all of The Garden Island readers to know that Winona Rubin, who sent a negative letter against me on Saturday (“Sad state of affairs,” Letters, Oct. 11), currently works for Office of Hawaiian Affiars Chairperson Haunani Apoliona.

I am appalled that someone would hypocritically complain about “distortions” and “misinformation” and yet fail to disclose who she really works for and what the true motivations for her letter were – Job Security.

Rubin’s behavior is consistent with what she has done in the past.  For example, she has written negative letters against me and signed her sister’s name to them.  It is these kinds of actions that make me question the credibility and honesty of this person.

Rubin’s letter, therefore, needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

Stender is a liar

By: Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: The Garden Island, October 15, 2008

Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Oswald Stender’s Saturday (“Election-year smears,” Letters, Oct. 11) letter against me just shows that he is living in complete denial about his friends Haunani Apoliona and Colette Machado and is terrified that when they lose this election, he will have to give up his Finance Committee where all of the excess spending has come from and will have to submit to a forensic audit. 

For the record:

• I have never used OHA money to take any personal trips and have never solicited invitations to take trips anywhere.

• All of my travel has been approved by the OHA administrator.

• I am the chair of the Native Hawaiian Health Task Force, which has never been dissolved by the board.

• It was Stender and Trustee Boyd Mossman who asked me to speak with the local representative of the Jack Abramoff firm. On a trip to Washington, D.C., trustees Machado, Apoliona, Dante Carpenter, John Waihee IV, myself and the administrator all interviewed three lobbyist firms. I never, at any time, insisted that OHA hire the Abramoff firm.

• Apoliona has, by far, outspent all current and past trustees with her travel expenses. On one trip to D.C. in 2007 alone, she spent nearly $9,000. She spent $56,000 from 2005-2006.

•  People who remember when Stender was with the Bishop Estate know that he created so much trouble from the inside of that institution that it finally collapsed and now the Princess’ will has been broken forever.

• As a Bishop Estate trustee, Stender formed a consortium with private investors to outbid his own board to buy a section of land from Maui Land & Pine. He even used a study done by Bishop Estate for his private use with his consortium. For this action, he should have been removed as a trustee for a breach of trust.

It is really sad to see someone so afraid of losing his power on the OHA board that he will do anything — even lie and twist the truth — to discredit his fellow trustee to maintain the status quo.

This is exactly why there needs to be changes on the OHA board. It’s time, folks, it’s time.

My Hope for Change


Source: October 2008 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

My Hope for CHANGE and what voters should know about OHA Trustees running for re-election 

I can tell you all about the millions and millions of dollars being spent at OHA with no accountability.

I can tell you that since Apoliona has been OHA Chairperson, all of the programs that existed when she took the chairmanship are now gone. 

I can tell you that since she became the Chair, our annual budget went from $24 million to $52 million. This year, OHA’s budget is $36,664,847. Add to that the $11,358,014 being encumbered and $4,792,605 left over from last year’s budget making our current budget swell to a tidy sum of $52,815,466. Where is all that money going? Only six budget meetings were held this year, out of the 13 scheduled. Because of cancellations, and there was never any agenda that allowed Trustees to question budget spending.

I can tell you too that Apoliona continues to renew contract after contract for the same lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and other consultants, to the tune of $2.75 million, even though we have not achieved the outcome we sought.


I can tell you that for at least four years, Apoliona has traveled all over the continental U.S. with her sister, OHA’s Administrator and other staff members.  Apoliona has spent millions buying dinners, hosting parties, sponsoring events all across America and Washington, D.C., flying on unrestricted airline tickets and first-class, and spent almost $8,000 on one trip alone with still nothing to show for it. Grants have been given out to many organizations and individuals on the mainland that are not 501(c)3 to sign up Native Hawaiians for Kau Inoa. After awhile, you feel as though you are back in the time of the Wild West, where there were no laws and no one to hold you accountable for your actions.


I can tell you that nepotism lives here at OHA. With Apoliona’s sister flying first-class all over the U.S. and spending trust dollars like it was her own, and maxing out an OHA credit card at $10,000. Apoliona’s sister then used her own credit card to charge expenses and then sought reimbursements of up to almost $50,000.


I can tell you that the morale at OHA has never been lower. Eight employees this year alone either were fired or quit because of the oppressive “Big Brother” culture that has spread like a cancer within the OHA offices. Employees are fingerprinted for I.D. cards so they can be tracked as they access their offices, security cameras watch their every move, and they are constantly reminded that they are “at-will” employees and can be fired at anytime. They are also told that they do not work for the Trustees and must answer only to the Administrator.


I can tell you that harassment and smear campaigns against any Trustee or employee that criticizes the goings-on here is not beneath Apoliona. If you are a staffer, you are simply fired. If you are a Trustee, Apoliona threatens you with censorship and plants things in newspapers to discredit you and to draw attention away from HER. For instance, a recent article written by a Star-Bulletin reporter, who is a friend of our Public Information Officer, wrote about my travel expenses but didn’t print anything about Apoliona’s $8,000 trip to D.C.  Trustees’ articles are also read by the Administrator before being printed in the Ka Wai Ola and if there is criticism of the office, the administration will have their own article in the same paper to negate your article.

I can tell you that, two years ago, Colette Machado, who is running for re-election from Molokai-Lanai, misled the Board by asking us to approve a resolution supporting Molokai Ranch’s efforts to give the community thousands of acres of land in exchange for a development of high-end homes to be built on the ranch. Machado told us that the community supported this effort and we believed her and approved the resolution. One year later, we found out that this was not the case at all. Machado also failed to tell us at the time that she was involved with the land trust that was to control the donated lands and that she later became the chair of the land trust. Last year, a nonprofit group representing this land trust came to OHA for a grant and received $100,000 for operating costs.

While this kind of behavior may seem incredible of people who were elected to protect your trust assets, it pales in comparison to the behavior they display to beneficiaries when they come before us to testify at the Board table. For example, during a hearing held at the state Capitol when I was working on a Kupuna health initiative, many Kupuna came from all of the islands to testify before the Board in support of a proposed OHA supplemental drug plan. The Kupuna explained to the Trustees about how important this plan was to them, sharing stories about how they had to split their medication in half to stretch it because they couldn’t afford the medication. Both Machado and Apoliona voted against the plan. Not only did they vote against it, they were rude to the Kupuna who came to testify and even made some of them cry. 

Machado said to one Kupuna who had flown in from Hilo and was in a wheelchair, “Do you think that I am going to vote for this just because you came here in a wheelchair and your oxygen machine?”

In another incident, when Apoliona and Machado were elected in 1996, Apoliona immediately wanted to become Chair of the Board after just being elected. In an interview with me she asked, “Who would you support for the chairmanship?” I replied: “Moses Keale. He is the most senior Trustee, he has the most experience, he is fair, he is the longest-serving member, and he started most of the programs that we are continuing here. Not only that, this is his last term.” Apoliona’s response was a cold, “Moses is sick and he’s going to die.” I replied, “Everyone is going to die, only God knows when that will be.” At the time, Moses was on a dialysis machine twice a week. Needless to say, neither Apoliona nor Moses became the Chair that year. However, it didn’t stop her from telling him that he should retire and get off the Board. These comments were made to a man who had given 12 years of his life to OHA, without any compensation. I have served on the Board for 18 years and have met wonderful Trustees along the way, but I have never met two more “mean-spirited” people than Machado and Apoliona, who continue to display bad behavior that is unconscionable.

Our people deserve better. They deserve leaders who can lead by example and leaders who are able to work with everyone. Leaders who can inspire and bring hope to our younger generation of Hawaiians who will come after us. Leaders who can agree to disagree with those who do not share our views but who can respect them for their differences. We cannot treat people who do not agree with us as enemies, we will never be able to build a nation that way.

In this election year, voters can make the necessary changes and elect people who will be accountable and listen to other perspectives and views and most of all listen to our beneficiaries. This is my hope for CHANGE.  Mahalo Ke Akua.

Why Two OHA Trustees Should Not Return to OHA

By: Trustee Rowena Akana
Friday, September 26, 2008

Source: Letter sent to various newspaper editors

OHA has had no fiscal accountability under Haunani Apoliona’s chairmanship. Programs have been eliminated or outsourced while our annual budget has doubled from $24 million to $52 million. The contracts of underperforming vendors have been unlawfully extended multiple times.

Apoliona has spent millions flying first-class and hosting lavish parties on the mainland. Her sister also works for OHA and recently had nearly $50,000 on her personal charge card reimbursed by OHA.

Morale at OHA has never been lower. Ten employees were fired or quit this year. Employees are fingerprinted for I.D. cards, tracked by security cameras, and constantly reminded that they can be fired at anytime.

Apoliona’s friend, Trustee Colette Machado, misled the Board into approving a resolution supporting Molokai Ranch’s plan to donate thousands of acres of land to the community in exchange for a development of high-end homes on the ranch. Machado said the community supported this effort, which turned out to be false. Machado was also involved with the group that was to control the donated lands and she is now its chairperson. Machado’s group recently received a $100,000 OHA grant for “operating costs.”

In this election year, voters must make the necessary changes and elect people who will be accountable.