OHA beneficiaries demand accountability


Source: May 2008 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  Here are a few recent developments at the legislature and at OHA:


On March 27th, the Sovereign Councils of the Hawaiian Homeland Assembly (or SCHHA, formerly the State Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations) called on the legislature to audit OHA.  They argued that OHA did not provide them with the basic information they needed to review OHA’s settlement agreement with the Lingle Administration for back-payments of ceded land revenues due from 1978-2008. 

The SCHHA specifically asked: (1) How the $200 million dollar amount was determined, including whether the revenues considered included disputed and undisputed income sources; (2) How $187 million of the total $200 million was determined to be provided in lieu of cash; (3) How the annual minimum payment of $15.1 million a year to OHA was determined; and (4) What native rights are being waived.  The SCHHA also said the State and OHA need to conduct a meaningful consultation with them as required by law since they are native Hawaiian beneficiaries. 

None of this would have happened if Chairperson Apoliona properly informed our beneficiaries about what this kind of settlement would mean to our future.


Also in March, a recent former OHA employee testified to State senators that he had “witnessed a great many outrageous acts” at OHA.  He wrote that, “OHA staff morale has plummeted, programs implemented to benefit Native Hawaiians have been circumvented, and gross mismanagement has been apparent from the very top.”  He also said that, “Today, OHA is a self serving organization only interested in acquiring money and power for itself and is so hamstrung by politics that it has failed in its mission to help all Native Hawaiians…”

He explained that one reason for the low moral at OHA is that “…the employees who have either chosen to leave OHA or who have been fired are the most competent at what they do professionally… and have the passion and drive to create successful projects for the community.  Initiative is rewarded by reprimands and/or termination from OHA by its top Administrators.” 

He also supported my earlier statements in the December 2007 Ka Wai Ola that staff members are not allowed to speak directly with Trustees.  He said that, “OHA staff are forbidden to speak with any of the Trustees for fear that they will ‘complain’ to them about the Administrator and the Deputy Administrator.  If a request is granted to speak with a Trustee, a manager accompanies staff to monitor what is being discussed.” 

Like the SCHHA, he also called for a financial and management audit of OHA, but his reason was due to “gross mismanagement.” 


Here is an example of my experience, even as a Trustee, of how hard it is to get any information out of OHA.  On January 4, 2008, I put in a request for specific information regarding the money being spent on sponsorships by OHA in Washington D.C.

I sent a follow-up memo on February 28th asking what happened since I had not heard back from them. 

I sent another follow-up memo to the administration on March 10th asking why they had not responded. 

I was finally forced to ask the Office of Information Practices (OIP) for help on March 11th

On March 12th, my office received a memo from the administration apologizing for the delay and promising that the report will be completed by the end of the month and circulated to all Trustees.

On March 14th the OIP sent a letter to the Administration saying that they had ten days to provide the information I requested or provide a reason why they were denying my request.

On March 31st, I had my staff follow-up with the administration (17 days after the OIP letter) to see what was causing the delay.  The administrator assured me that the report will be coming shortly.

Finally, on April 2nd, almost four months later, I received the information I requested.

Clearly, there is a lack of wisdom and foresight in OHA’s leadership.  Mrs. Rubin, the senior aide for Chairperson Haunani Apoliona, has been way out of line with her attack ads against me.  The recent incidents that I’ve described above only prove what I’ve been saying all along.  Instead of addressing the problems to make things better at OHA, the Chairperson and her staff continue to deny that there are serious problems within the organization.  Our beneficiaries have made their voices heard at the legislature this year, asking legislators to make OHA more transparent by sharing information and by demanding an audit.


On April 3, 2008, attorney William H. Burgess, filed another lawsuit against OHA (Kuroiwa v. Lingle).  Burgess is representing six people with a history of filing lawsuits against Hawaiians, including James Kuroiwa, Earl Arakaki (from the previous lawsuit Arakaki v. Lingle), and former Advertiser publisher Thurston Twigg-Smith.  These people are still using the same tired arguments from Arakaki v. Lingle that have been thrown out by both Hawaii and Federal courts.

I have always said that what we need to do is follow the money and ask, “Who could be paying for this?”  What is Burgess’ motivation?  No one sues someone for nothing.  While some people may think that a lot of people are suing us, this is not the case.  All of these lawsuits are being filed by the same people and among them is Thurston Twigg-Smith, a man that has unlimited resources.  One has to be asking why?  What is Twigg-Smith’s real motivation?  At some point, the courts need to realize that these complaints need to be thrown out permanently.  There should be a limit to the nonsense.  Perhaps what we need to do is sue these people for harassment.  Maybe then common sense can prevail.

Betrayal and the Grab for Power

By: Rowena Akana
March 2002

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

For a brief moment in time I could imagine how 109 years ago our Queen must have felt, surrounded by members of her own cabinet who had betrayed her. Most painful must have been to see those Hawaiians in whom she placed her trust betray that trust. As I sat in a Hawiian Affairs hearing at the Legislature on February 5, listening to testimonies being given by Hawaiians for and against OHA, I saw before me the very reasons why it has taken us so long, as a people, to unite.

Some people testified with no real purpose except to be heard and noticed, while others had very selfish and personal reasons. Most disturbing were those Hawaiians who testified that the native Hawaiian Trust was only for them, the 50% or more blood who resided on Hawaiian homestead lands. A position taken by the SCHHA, a private organization created to represent the Hawaiian homesteaders. These people fail to recognize that there are more native Hawaiians living off of the homelands than there are who reside on the homesteads. This attitude is divisive and will only create a greater distance between all Hawaiians and those who feel that they have special rights to any entitlements because of their blood quantum. If these kinds of attitudes prevail, it will be impossible for all Hawaiians to come together to form a nation.

One only need look at history to know that a divided nation cannot stand. It is disheartening to see that within OHA, some of us are willing to work no matter who is in the leadership, while others who are not, have refused to work by serving on committees.

For the past four and a half months this has been the case at OHA. While some of us use our columns in the OHA newspaper to discuss positive programs and issues, we have at least two trustees who continue to focus on negative things. These same trustees now want to overturn the board leadership again after refusing to work for the past four and a half months while collecting a paycheck. These trustees are Haunani Apoliona, Colette Machado, and Oswald Stender. In early January the board of trustees passed OHA’s package of bills to be submitted to the legislature. In the February 5th hearing we had one trustee, Oswald Stender, support the Hemmings bill that would destroy the OHA public trust and create a private trust with OHA’s assets to be put in a trust account. This position was contrary to the positions taken by the full board in January 2002.

How can these actions be explained to our beneficiaries? Is the community right about the grab for power being more important than providing services for our beneficiaries? Are they right about some trustees trying to destroy the very fabric of OHA from within?

Somewhere in the middle of this very important legislative meeting, Trustee Apoliona is seen passing a note to the committee clerk and seconds later Senator Hemmings is heard to proclaim that according to a press release that he waves in the air which he just received, the OHA board will reorganize itself on February 13, 2002 and maybe the OHA bills being heard today need no further action. Amazingly, no one notices as Apoliona slips quietly out of the room Stunned by the announcement after sitting for almost five hours trying to explain and defend OHA’s position on various bills that were bing discussed, I am immediately descended upon by the media for comment based on Hemmings’ announcement. A sick feeling hovers over me as I try to appear composed to answer the questions being asked when all the while my mind is reeling thinking about how this folly will be perceived by the general public, our beneficiaries and the legislature. Does this move make our whole organization look foolish? Yes. Is the timing bad because of the legislative session ahead of us and the importance of unity is imperative? Yes. Is there a good reason for the change in leadership, and if so, what is that reason? Did these five members of the board think about the public reaction to this action and the possible repercussions of their actions? It is obvious to me that these questions are of no importance to them.

We need not worry about the Twigg-Smiths, Conklins, Baretts, and Burgesses. We need only to look among ourselves to see the traitorous dogs who lay in wait for just the right moment to deliver us up to our enemies.

And so it is that I wonder what is to be the fate of our people with this kind of leadership, and will it take another hundred years before any nation is formalized and, in the meantime, what will become of Hawaiian entitlements as we know them, but more importantly, will there be anything left of the spoils in a hundred years after the Hawaiians have picked each other’s bones clean.