The tail is wagging the dog at OHA

`Ano`ai kakou…  If you need something done, don’t bother talking to the Trustees anymore.  The Administration is running the show now.  We’re just rubber stamps that sign whatever is put in front of us.

When the year began I had high hope that OHA would finally become open and transparent.  Instead, it took just a half a year for the new Board Chair to take OHA a big leap backwards to the ultra-secret and consolidated power structure of the previous two Board Chairs.


I’ve always argued that being a Trustee is not about simply showing up at a few monthly meetings.  The people of Hawaii elected us in the hope that we would make their lives better.  Unfortunately, the current Board Leadership is more interested in tying our hands and muffling our voice.


It was bad enough that there were only three Trustee committees, but now we’re back to just two.  The current Chair might argue that it will improve efficiency but the truth is it leaves one more Trustee with much less to do.

For many years OHA operated effectively with five committees.  All of us worked hard and we were deeply involved in Hawaiian issues.  Five Trustees had the opportunity to be a committee chair and could focus on a specific issue and become experts in that field.  The five-committee system produced better Trustees.

The current two-committee system takes all the policy development out of our hands.  It encourages us to just show up for meetings every other week.  While we don’t really get to develop policy anymore, we certainly get all the blame when things don’t work out.

The Trustees are now dependent on the Administration to spoon feed us everything.  None of us ran for office just to keep some seats warm.  Good Trustees should be driven to find solutions to problems that are plaguing our people.

Instead, the Administration is taking advantage of the Board’s weakness to push their own agendas, such as producing strange cartoons and travelling all over the world (more on this in my next article).

You’ll probably hear the term “Ad Hoc” sub-committees as a way of trying to get more of us involved, but don’t be fooled.  They only make suggestions and are easy to ignore.  If you don’t believe me, I can show you a list of requests that the Board Chair and Administration ignored when I was the powerful ARM committee chair.  What results could a weaker sub-committee possibly produce?


Despite the recent changes to the committee structure, I will continue to push for more fiscal responsibility within OHA such as:

  • Limiting the Administration’s excessive international travel;
  • Encouraging Board Leadership to give Trustees meaningful work and allowing them to gain further financial experience;
  • Changing our spending policy limit to 4 ½ percent of the Trust Fund given the state of the current economy;
  • Conducting a full forensic audit of how every penny is spent at OHA; and
  • Making sure the Administration keeps its promise to get rid of the “Fiscal Reserve” slush fund.

These changes won’t come easy and I am sure to meet heavy resistance.  But like I said, I didn’t become a Trustee just to attend a bunch of meetings every month.  Aloha Ke Akua.