Let’s Set the Record Straight


May 2003 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou… In her April article, the current Chairman listed all of OHA’s accomplishments in the last 12 months in an obvious attempt to laud OHA’s progress under her leadership.

Unfortunately, by failing to recognize the Trustees who initiated many of these accomplishments, she gave false impressions that she was responsible for it all, and takes credit for issues she had nothing to do with, and in some cases, vehemently opposed.  For example, our partnership with Fannie Mae, the Bank of Hawaii, and First Hawaiian Bank for OHA’s homeownership program is an issue that I have nurtured for several years.  I found it strange that the Chairman would include it on her list of accomplishments, especially since she didn’t vote to support it.

Trustee Cataluna and former Trustee Ota initiated OHA’s lawsuit against NASA.  The Hawaiian Registry Program came out of a program committee I chaired in 2001.  The Molokai water case has been ongoing for more than 3 ½ years.  All of the education programs were initiated by Trustee Waihe`e.  I have worked on many of the housing and federal recognition issues for several years.  The majority of the remaining programs listed were actually initiated by former Trustee and Board Chair Hee. 

The Chairman seems to have wanted to put down anything she could think of that OHA has accomplished in the last year to make the list seem more substantial.  Why write that we amended our by-laws relating to Accommodations for Persons with Disabilities when we were required to do it by law? 

The Chairman lauds OHA as “operationally efficient.”  However, this efficiency has come at the high cost of excluding Trustees from the decision-making process. 

There used to be five committees – Land, Policy & Planning, Program Management, Legislative & Government Affairs, and Budget & Finance – however, the Chairman consolidated the five committees into two all-powerful committees.  This is the most ineffective committee structure I have served under.  Trustee Stender oversees all of OHA’s fiscal, policy, economic development, and administrative matters.  Trustee Collette Machado has responsibility over all federal and state legislation, on-going programs in health, housing, education, land, the Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund, and then some.

These two committees were not created to foster efficiency, but to concentrate control under a few trustees.  Dissident trustees cannot get their issues on the agendas.  Committee chairs simply refuses requests.  Consequently, no NEW initiatives have been proposed.

None of OHA’s on-going programs have progressed since the start of the two committee structure.  After making several requests to both chairs for program updates, Trustee Machado granted my request.  Unfortunately, many of the updates simply stated that no actions have been taken since last year.  One action item passed by the Board in July of 2002 has made no progress whatsoever.  In October of 2002, the board asked the administration to hire a consultant to do a review on a proposal.  As of three weeks ago, nothing had occurred.

The Chairman mentions that we hired Goldman Sachs & Co. to manage OHA’s Native Hawaiian Trust Fund.  What most people do not know is that Goldman Sachs was considered despite missing the bidding deadline.  Trustee Stender put Goldman Sachs onto the October 2002 committee agenda.  It should surprise no one that Goldman Sachs was eventually selected as one of the Trust Fund managers, despite concerns brought to the table.

The two committee structure fails to involve ALL trustees in any meaningful way.  The current leadership needs to shift their focus to serving OHA’s beneficiaries.  They should also forgo their micro-management of administrative staff and Trustees.  Perhaps then, our morale will improve and the recent mass exodus of administrative staff will end.  Mālama pono!