State Procurement Office investigates OHA over lucrative, non-bid contract

`Ano`ai kakou…  On May 8, 2017, Hawaii News Now reported that “a criminal probe is now underway on a lucrative, non-bid contract issued by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.”  They also reported that “the state Attorney General’s office has subpoenaed records relating to an OHA’s contract with [a] Hawaiian scholar…  Sources said the subpoena was issued to the State Procurement Office, which recently found that OHA improperly awarded the contract without competitive bidding.”

In early May, OHA received a copy of a letter from Sara Allen, the Administrator of the State Procurement Office (SPO), to Mililani Trask regarding OHA’s Contract No. 2879 with Kuauli ꞌĀina-Based Insights LLC.  It stated that a certain division of our staff had violated the State Procurement laws.

This news was not a revelation to me, as I had been informing the Trustees that this behavior had been going on for a very long time.  As the former Chair, I wanted this behavior stopped.

It was the main reason for my rescinding the procurement duties from the OHA CEO, which caused a furor by some management staff and some of the public.  However, the public was not aware of OHA’s internal problems and did not understand my reasoning for this removal of this power.  Needless to say, my detractors used this to say the Board was dysfunctional under my two-month watch and it was a reason to elect a new Chair.  As a result, the “old guard” was put back in power.

So here we go again, faced with the same problems, only in worse shape now because it isn’t just the State Procurement Office who is looking into OHA.  We didn’t do well at the legislature last year or this year, and our beneficiaries question the ability of some Trustees to manage our Trust assets.

Can OHA be fixed?  Yes, but it will take political will on the part of some Trustees to do what is necessary to make this organization into one that our beneficiaries can be proud of and our employees happy to work for.  Aloha Ke Akua.

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

Too Little, Too Late

By: Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Letter sent to Star Bulletin Editor on February 8, 2008

I am writing to correct the errors that were made by the Chairperson of the Office of Hawaiian Affiars and other trustees in their Feb. 7th letter. 

First, the letter twists the facts by stating that I rejected former Governor Cayetano’s offer in 1999 while I was serving as the Chairperson of OHA. 

What really happened is that the full board voted to reject Cayetano’s first offer, which was much less than the $251 million he later offered, for the past due amounts owed to OHA from 1980.

OHA and the state were also discussing a prospective offer of 20% or 365,000 acres of ceded lands, if OHA would settle on all land claims against the state in the future.  This offer would not have included any ocean resources, or any other resource, that the Hawaiian people would be entitled to.

OHA was not able to consider Cayetano’s second offer because five trustees, who include currently serving trustees Haunani Apoliona and Colette Machado, voted to end all negotiations.  OHA’s attorney at the time, James E. Duffy, Jr., now a Hawaii Supreme Court Justice, repeatedly advised the trustees to continue the negotiations, but they rejected his advice.

The $251 million that Cayetano offered in 1999 would be worth more than double today if it were properly invested and the 365,000 acres of ceded lands would have meant economic self-sufficiency and a better negotiating position for the Akaka bill.

I believe that Apoliona and Machado wanted to end negotiations because they did not want any credit to go to our negotiating team, which was made up of myself and former trustees Clayton Hee and Mililani Trask.

Apoliona and Machado thought they could negotiate their own deal, one that would serve as their legacy, but nine years later all they could come up with is a watered-down version of our previous deal that we now see before the legislature.  Their short-sightedness caused OHA to pay dearly a year later when the U.S. Supreme Court came down with the Rice decision.

Later, the Hawaii Supreme Court threw out Act 304 and suggested that the remedy must now be sought at the legislature.  I believe this decision was made by the court because OHA walked away from the negotiating table after the Hawaii Supreme Court had asked OHA and the state to negotiate a settlement.

Also, in light of the Hawaii Supreme Court’s recent injunction preventing the state from any future sale or transfer of ceded lands until the claims of Native Hawaiians have been resolved, OHA should really consider whether a better settlement can be negotiated than the one we now have before the legislature.

I encourage anyone who would like to dispute my statements to speak directly to Governor Cayetano, his chief negotiator Sam Callejo, Senator Clayton Hee, or Hawaii Supreme Court Justice James Duffy.  I also have signed documents from the 1999 negotiations to back up what I have written.

Cayetano offered better ceded land deal

By: Trustee Rowena Akana
Monday, February 4, 2008

Source: Honolulu Star Bulletin

I am writing to confirm former Gov. Ben Cayetano’s statement in the Star-Bulletin’s Jan. 22 article that his ceded lands settlement offer to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, while he was in office, was a better deal for native Hawaiians than the proposal now before the Legislature. I was the chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in 1999 when he offered OHA $251 million plus 20 percent of the ceded lands, which is estimated at 365,000 acres.

Following OHA’s victory in the Heely court case, the state of Hawaii appealed to the Hawaii Supreme Court, which then ordered the state and OHA to negotiate a settlement.

After only a few months, Haunani Apoliona, Colette Machado, Frenchy DeSoto, Louis Hao and Mililani Trask voted to halt the negotiations because they didn’t understand that the $251 million was for the past due revenues to OHA and the 20 percent of the ceded lands was to settle future claims.

While it would have been a final settlement, imagine how great that would have been for our people if we had received the 20 percent of all of the ceded lands back then. Not only that, Gov. Cayetano was willing to consider many of the lands that OHA wanted. Our intention was to take the offer out into the community for input, but we never had the chance because of the shortsightedness of those trustees. As a result of OHA walking away from the table, the Supreme Court ruled the Heely act void, and told OHA to go back to the Legislature for a remedy.


By: Trustee Rowena Akana
December 11, 1998

In his inaugural speech on December 7th, Governor Cayetano made a pledge to the Hawaiian community, “…And I pledge here and now that I will leave no stone unturned in settling the state’s differences with OHA over ceded lands. Before the end of my term we will reach a settlement which is fair and just to all, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian.”

In the short time that I have been the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, I’ve made it clear that one of my priorities is to seek what is fair for our people. We’ve waited much too long for the State and Federal governments to lend credibility to their words. I am hopeful that the governor’s words are not empty words to be added to the pile of rhetoric dating back to the annexation in 1898, when 1.8 million acres of government and crown lands were taken. A Joint Resolution of Annexation provided that money from the ceded lands would be used solely for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands. Since that time we have waited for them to make these words credible. Hawaiians can no longer afford to wait for the governments to keep their words. It should be clear to everyone by now that unless we make things happen, waiting cannot be one of our options.

The Organic Act which established Hawaii as a U.S. Territory, also provided that ceded lands would be used for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands.

As we work toward achieving fairness from the State in negotiations on the Heely rulings, we must be equal partners in these negotiations.

Some suggest that compromise is the key. I whole-heartedly agree. OHA and its beneficiaries have compromised. That’s why we receive only 20 percent of proprietary revenues instead of 100 percent. That’s why the state forced Act 329 upon the Hawaiians. An Act which capped OHA’s revenue at $15 million for two years, while the state worked out its fiscal problems. The cap expires on June 30, 1999. The State is not any closer to any real negotiating numbers than they were two years ago. How serious do you suppose they are in negotiating a settlement with OHA? Some public comments made by the Governor are troubling. He said he was very comfortable with the $15 million cap. Also troubling is the fact that Calvin Say, (the new speaker of the house) had decided not to name a Hawaiian Affairs Committee because, he said it wasn’t important enough! The biggest issue facing the legislature is the ceded land claims! Calvin Say has put Hawaiian Affairs in the hands of the Judiciary Chair (Ed Case, Rep. Manoa). This is the committee that will hear Hawaiian bills and have the ability to change the laws of the land. They want to make sure that they create a bill that will statutorily stand up to muster. So in one fell swoop, they can destroy OHA and the 20% revenue share of cash entitlements. This maneuver is so blatant that the house leadership is confident that they can wipe us out.

I am happy to see that the Governor is publicly moving his position from not being able to afford what OHA is claiming to be its rightful share of revenues from ceded lands to a position of settling our differences.

In advocating for Hawaiian ceded lands and entitlements, OHA must put its best team together to represent us. People who are akamai and experienced. Recently, the Board of Trustees approved a team consisting of myself and Trustees Clayton Hee and Mililani Trask as primary team members.

We trustees must have you alongside us as we journey to our eventual and rightful end: Justice. From now on, it will take all Hawaiians to stave off the attack.