Blaming others…


Source: June 2008 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  I wasn’t surprised when I opened the May issue of the Ka Wai Ola to see that fellow trustee Haunani Apoliona listed me first among those that she felt killed her negotiated settlement bill (HB266 HD2).  I guess I could see it as a compliment that she thinks I have such powerful influence, but once again, Apoliona misses the point.  The truth is, if Apoliona wants to look for someone to blame for the fiasco during this past legislative session, she needs to remember the phrase “the buck stops here,” or at least that is what good leaders presume.

It is obvious to me what killed OHA’s ceded land settlement legislation with the governor on the past due ceded land revenues that are owed to OHA.  It was Haunani Apoliona’s sheer arrogance.  Apoliona believed that she could just ram her legislation down everyone’s throat, including the legislature. 

She also completely misses the obvious fact that we needed to get the legislature’s approval for the settlement.  No one likes surprises, least of all politicians.  Apoliona also criticizes the five Senators who killed the bill, but what do you expect them to do when nearly a hundred OHA beneficiaries show up and testify against the bill for almost five hours?  Her “my way or the highway” attitude doomed the bill from the very beginning.

 For The Record

I opposed HB266 HD2 because the bill, if passed into law, would have bound our beneficiaries to a settlement agreement that was signed between OHA and the State on January 17, 2008.  The agreement contained language that would forever extinguish all rights afforded to Native Hawaiians under section 4 and 6 of Article XII of the State Constitution.  When I questioned OHA’s leadership about this language, they basically told me to not worry about it.  Then, after the fact, Senate President Colleen Hanabusa revealed in the May 6, 2008 Honolulu Advertiser that, “OHA leaders told her and other senators that the idea of eliminating future claims in exchange for $15.1 million annually in the future was (attorney general) Bennett’s idea and that they reluctantly agreed.  They had to agree to go along with it or the AG would no longer negotiate.”  OHA’s negotiating team deceived beneficiaries, the legislature, and fellow trustees by saying the agreement was mutual and that the amended language meant nothing.

Ka Wai Ola Now a Mouthpiece for OHA Leadership

I am truly disappointed with the direction that our Ka Wai Ola newspaper has taken ever since we lost 75% of our newspaper staff last year.  There is no longer any sense of fairness or balance in what is being reported to our beneficiaries and, in my opinion, it is now nothing more than a propaganda rag.  Nothing critical of OHA’s leadership is ever printed.  I have also received complaints from beneficiaries that their letters-to-the-editor are not being printed.  This is the first time in the many years I’ve been at OHA that the Ka Wai Ola has been reduced to a publication that, to some extent, is being censored.  For example, when an issue is deemed too controversial, somehow, thousands of copies of the newspaper seem to get lost and are not delivered to beneficiaries.  Also, as retribution for my past criticisms, you can now find my articles in the back of the paper.

Employee Exodus Continues in April

Three employees left OHA in April.  Two were accountants and one of them wrote a letter to trustees saying she felt she was unfairly terminated.  The other accountant resigned.  I have asked the Administration to discuss these departures at the next Board meeting.  The third employee that left was the high-profile manager of Hi’ipaka LLC.

Final Thoughts

The fact that there was no settlement between OHA and the State is very unfortunate.  Especially since Ms. Apoliona has claimed that she and the Governor’s office have been negotiating for three years.  This statement, on its face, appears less than truthful when you factor in the fact that the state offered up a couple of pieces of land and wrote language in the settlement document that HAD TO BE ACCEPTED BY OHA or there would be no deal.  These actions make it clear that THERE WAS NO NEGOTIATIONS going on at all!  There were only “take it or leave it” offers by the state which OHA’s negotiating team finally agreed to.

What is crystal clear now is that the state had every intention to keep all of the best ceded lands and had decided to appeal our Hawaii State Supreme Court decision not to allow the state to sell ceded lands until Hawaiian land claims could be settled.  The appeal by the State to the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse that decision makes the state’s efforts to settle with OHA and the Hawaiian people disingenuous.  To add insult to injury, the state has hired the former U.S. Solicitor General under President Clinton (who represented the state and OHA in the Rice v. Cayetano case) to represent the State of Hawaii in their appeal against OHA in the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is time for all Hawaiians to rally together for justice and to replace leaders who do NOT represent their interests in the November 4, 2008 General Election.  For more information on how to register to vote or to be a candidate in the OHA election, please call the Office of Elections at 453-8683 (Oahu) or toll free at 1-800-422-8683 for the neighbor islands.  Imua e Hawaii nei…

Too little, too late


Source: March 2008 Ka Wai Ola Column

‘Ano‘ai käkou… OHA is currently lobbying the Legislature to pass a bill that will settle our claims against the State from 1978 to the present. For those who do not remember, former Gov. Ben Cayetano’s second settlement offer in 1999 was a better deal than the current proposal.

The 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. We also discussed a prospective offer of 20 percent, 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 we would be entitled to.

OHA couldn’t consider Cayetano’s second offer because five Trustees, including Trustees Haunani Apoliona and Colette Machado, suddenly voted to end all negotiations. OHA’s attorney at the time, James E. Duffy Jr., now a Hawai‘i 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 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 (former Trustees Clayton Hee and Mililani Trask and myself). They thought they could negotiate their own deal, but nine years later all they could come up with is a watered-down version of our previous deal. 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 Hawai‘i Supreme Court threw out Act 304 and suggested that the remedy must now be sought at the Legislature. I believe this decision was due to OHA walking away from the negotiating table after the Hawai‘i Supreme Court had asked OHA and the state to negotiate a settlement.

Please note that all of my statements can be verified by Gov. Cayetano, his chief negotiator Sam Callejo, Sen. Clayton Hee, or Justice James Duffy. I also have documents that support my statements regarding OHA’s 1999 negotiations with the state.

In 1980, the state legislature amended HRS chapter 10 by adding HRS 10-13.5, which provided that “twenty percent of all funds derived from the public (ceded) land trust shall be expended by OHA…”  The Hawai‘i Supreme Court quoted HRS 10-13.5 verbatim when it recently issued an injunction preventing the state from any future sale or transfer of ceded lands until the claims of Native Hawaiians have been resolved.  In light of this, OHA should really consider whether deleting the twenty percent provision in HRS 10-13.5 would hurt OHA’s standing with the Hawaii Supreme Court.  We should also consider whether we could negotiate a better deal with the state now that we are in a much stronger negotiating position.

Kau Inoa updates

Also, in a memo dated Jan. 31, Administrator Nämu‘o submits that our leader for Kau Inoa registrations on the continent, Chairperson Apoliona’s sister Aulani, is “…sometimes slow in gathering paperwork and submitting documentation for P-card payments.” Because of this, her OHA credit card was taken away and given to another staff person to manage (right?). Is it any surprise that our Kau Inoa program on the continent is so ineffective and no one knows for sure how much OHA funds are being spent? The Administrator announced that as of Feb. 7, the total number of Kau Inoa registrations is 80,625. There were 67,684 in Hawai‘i (84 percent) and 12,941 on the continent. As of Oct. 22, 2007, there were 29,574 registrants who needed to be verified as Native Hawaiian through the Department of Health.

Nothing but excuses…


Source: February 2008 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  As those of you who read my columns religiously are aware, because of the article I wrote in December of 2007 criticizing the OHA Chairperson Haunani Apoliona’s leadership of OHA, I was pressured by five of my colleagues to resign as vice-chair of the budget committee.

The other thing that occurred was a paid article written by Mrs. Winona Rubin in our January 2008 Ka Wai Ola newspaper in which she tried to discredit my criticisms.  While I could go down the list of her ridiculous excuses and disqualify and negate everything that she said, it would only end up being a waste of your time.  Let me simply say that Mrs. Rubin is in a great deal of conflict of interest and everything that she said in her ad should be looked at in that light.

First off, Mrs. Rubin is the chief-of-staff for Chairperson Apoliona.  Before that, she was her administrative aide.  Before that, she was her boss at Alu Like, Inc.  They have had a very close relationship for over 30 years.  Her biased opinion should be viewed as just that, biased.

What I would like to know is why Haunani Apoliona cannot speak for herself.  After all, I personally hold her responsible for all of the turmoil that is going on inside of OHA: the Low morale, turn-over of employees, favoritism, nepotism, and distrust among employees.  Mrs. Rubin should stop embarrassing herself with her poor excuses and provide all of us with real answers.

  • Perhaps Mrs. Rubin can explain, in detail, the expenses thus far for the legal advice from the attorneys we hired who have not been able to deliver in any success in moving our federal legislation forward.
  • Perhaps Mrs. Rubin can justify why there was no evaluation of their performance before Chairperson Apoliona recommended that their contract be extended for a third time.
  • Perhaps Mrs. Rubin can justify all of the millions of dollars spent on the continent for Kau Inoa registrations, done by non profits and others, to register Hawaiians and paid as much as $10.00 for each application.
  • Perhaps Mrs. Rubin can explain why, for the past two years, more effort has been spent getting signatures on the continent instead of focusing on our own state where 80% of the Hawaiian population resides.
  • Perhaps Mrs. Rubin can explain why Chairperson Apoliona’s sister has been put in charge of mainland registrations and flies first-class each time she travels.
  • Perhaps Mrs. Rubin can explain how Chairperson Apoliona’s sister was able to obtain an OHA charge card for $10,000 when not even Trustees have charge cards.
  • Perhaps Mrs. Rubin can explain why, when Chairperson Apoliona’s sister maxed out the charge card, she was allowed to continue making purchases with her own credit card and have OHA reimburse her in the 5 figure range and still counting for hotel, air fare, receptions, car rentals, etc., even when in some instances there were no receipts, and in some cases the travel was not authorized.
  • Perhaps Mrs. Rubin can explain why Chairperson Apoliona’s sister was not fired for these egregious actions using Native Hawaiian Trust Funds.  Would she have been fired if she were not the Chairperson’s sister?
  • To date, no grand total of expenditures have been given to Trustees regarding the Kau Inoa registrations, or the total amount OHA spent on Federal legislation.

Finally, if Mrs. Rubin wants positive things to occur at OHA in 2008 she needs to begin with addressing some of more pressing internal issues within OHA and be honest in her assessment and not blinded by conflicts of interest.

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.

It’s a matter of trust…


Source: December 2007 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

‘Ano‘ai käkou…  It is no secret that OHA has had a staff retention crisis for the past several years – 36 position vacancies this year alone.  It seems like all of our most experienced and capable staff have left and gone to DHHL, Kamehameha Schools, and other greener pastures.  This has to stop.  OHA’s mission is too important and far-reaching to constantly have to start over with new staff.  OHA needs to change at a fundamental level, and I say we should start by restoring the most basic ingredient of any relationship — trust.  How do we do that?  It’s really simple actually.

The leadership needs to rethink its current security procedures.  Each OHA staff person will soon be given individual ID cards that could potentially track him or her as they enter and leave any OHA workspace.  Heaven help you if you enter a trustee’s office without permission! All OHA staff members have also been fingerprinted to authenticate that they are indeed the person signing into and out of work.  Everyone knows it is their managers’ responsibility to make sure that their staff members are reporting to work on time.  The finger printing system only proves that there has been a failure at OHA’s management level.  The message that the current leadership is sending our staff is this – “We don’t trust any of you, just like we don’t trust some of the trustees.”  My question continues to be, “What could they possibly be doing to make themselves so paranoid that they don’t even trust their own staff or fellow trustees (other than 2 or 3 “inner circle” trustees).”  OHA can now be likened to a “lockdown” security compound.

If you want people to be trustworthy, you should first give them your trust.  As the administrator himself has said in the past, “we are all family.”  I agree with that wholeheartedly and I truly wish that this will eventually occur.  Unfortunately, the lack of trust reveals that, at present, we are a very dysfunctional family.

Currently, all OHA staff is discouraged from speaking with a trustee directly and all written communications must go through the administrator first.  This causes trustees to wait for up to 3-4 months to get any requested fiscal information.  All of the trustees are also beneficiaries who should never be denied access to OHA personnel or be forced to wait so long for an answer.

About Trust:  The board leadership has passed a new policy that forces a trustee to get the permission of all nine trustees to release or discuss any information shared in executive session.  Our old policy allowed a majority (5) of trustees to release any confidential information if it is appropriate.  This bylaw has served OHA without incident for the past 27 years.  The sudden change makes me wonder, “What is the current Chairperson doing that she fears is not pono?”  The new bylaw goes against basic trust law.  For example, a trustee would not be able to say anything if other trustees are making bad decisions behind the closed doors of executive session.  Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) 554A-6 requires a dissenting trustee to express their opposition or they would be liable for any damages caused by the co-trustees’ decisions.  How can a trustee do that if he or she is gagged by the new policy?

Case in point, at our last Board meeting on Lanai, the Chair’s agenda listed two items to be discussed in executive session using HRS 92-5(a)(4):  “Agenda Item VI., B. Legal Advisory by Board Counsel and Deputy Administrator regarding the board’s responsibilities and obligations under OHA Contract #1820 with Zell and Cox, Law, P.C. to ensure the provision of continued legal services to OHA.” and “Agenda Item VI., C. Legal Advisory by Board Counsel and Deputy Administrator regarding the board’s responsibilities and obligations under OHA Contract #1612 with Patton Boggs, LLC to ensure the provision of continued legal services to OHA.”  There was a discussion on these confidential matters, but then a motion to renew the two contracts with “x” amount of dollars, etc. was suddenly proposed.  Trustees were not given a copy of the motion in advance and an action item for this matter should have been included in the Trustees’ folders.  This should have been taken up in open session because contracts are not confidential.  But if that were done in an open session, then beneficiaries would know how much is being spent on our lobbying efforts.  This should not be a secret.  Everyone knows the board is supporting federal recognition legislation. 

This is the 4th time that this board has used the HRS 92-5(a)(4) executive session law to keep an action secret.  No materials regarding the action are provided to trustees ahead of time and they are instead presented on a chalkboard or in a slide show.  Then the vote is called.  This way, there is no paper trail of the action and the executive session minutes are not released to anyone.

While I recognize that certain parts of our records must remain confidential because of privacy issues, etc., there is no need to keep our entire discussion confidential.  We should consider ideas like blackening out the confidential information and releasing the non-confidential portion of our documents to the public, just like the federal government does.  Building a nation will require elected leaders to be forthright and strong, fair and transparent.  Who will have faith in a nation being built by people hiding behind the law and afraid to tell the people the truth about what they are doing?

I would like to stress that I am not against spending our funds to lobby for the passage of federal recognition.  At present, being federally recognized is the best way to protect our assets and future entitlements from lawsuits.  What I do object to is the secretive process that the leadership is using, which is neither upfront nor forthright.  As a trustee for OHA, it is my fiduciary responsibility to know exactly how much of the trust is being spent and for what purpose.  It is a responsibility I take seriously and I will continue my inquires until I can finally get straight answers.

In my opinion, the responsibility for this huge mess rests squarely on the current Chairman’s shoulders.  There is absolutely no way for a dissenting trustee to have any impact at board meetings.  It all started five years ago when she combined the five subject matter committees into only two, thus eliminating three committee chairmen and leaving the remaining two committees under the control of her two most trusted trustees, thereby consolidating her power.  After gaining total control over the board committees, she started using legal opinions to help her enforce her will at the board table to justify her actions and give her almost absolute control over all board discussions and stifling any dissenting views of other trustees and even certain beneficiaries.

Some, may consider these actions clever.  But is it?

Mathew 10:26

“For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.”

La’au Point

By: Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Letter to the Editor, Molokai Dispatch, November 2007

I am writing to clarify a few issues that Bridget Mowat brought up in her October 25, 2007 letter to the editor.

First, Office of Hawaiian Affiars (OHA) Chairperson Haunani Apoliona should have informed those who attended OHA’s October 17, 2007 Molokai meeting that both Trustee Mossman and I were in New York on official board business dealing with the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund.  Let me assure the Molokai community that, as a statewide at-large trustee, I am deeply concerned with La’au Point and would have made every effort to attend the meeting if it were not for the scheduling conflict.  Chair Apoliona should have also made sure whether the remaining trustees could attend or not and rescheduled the meeting if she didn’t have quorum.

Second, Trustee Dante Carpenter and I personally urged Chairperson Apoliona during last year’s Molokai meeting to consider rescinding OHA’s resolution supporting Molokai Ranch’s Master Plan, which includes the development of luxury homes at La`au Point.  Chair Apoliona flatly refused.

Third, the $100,000 that was awarded to the Molokai Land Trust, which is led by Trustee Machado, is indeed a cause for concern.  I was unable to attend the September 13th committee meeting that approved the grant due to a scheduling conflict.  However, I have learned that the $100,000 grant Mowat discusses was actually given to the nonprofit Ke Aupuni Lokahi, Inc. to administer in support of the Molokai Land Trust.  It is possible that the trustees did not understand that the grant would actually benefit the Moloka’i Land Trust.  Also, I do not know whether Trustee Colette Machado clearly explained to the Trustees that she would directly benefit from the grant.  In any case, she abstained from voting for it.

Finally, Trustee Machado assured us when we first approved the resolution supporting Molokai Ranch’s Master Plan that the Molokai community fully supported it.  As the Trustee from Molokai, we believed her and supported the resolution.  In the future, I will not make the mistake of believing Trustee Machado, or any trustee regarding a project they support, without first checking the facts for myself.

Apoliona uses staff to publicly attack a fellow Trustee


Source: November 2004 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Article

`Ano`ai kakou…  In late September, I received an advance copy of a letter from Chairman Haunani Apoliona’s administrative aide that is supposed to appear in this month’s newsletter.  The letter attacks my October 2004 article in which I brought up questionable expenditures and decisions made by her supervisor.

For the record, as an OHA Trustee, I am required to call attention to Apoliona’s questionable actions as Chairman.  According to Hawaii Revised Statues 554A-5:

“…a dissenting trustee is not liable for the consequences of an act in which the trustee joins at the direction of the majority of the trustees, if the trustee expressed a dissent in writing to any of the cotrustees…”

In my opinion, Apoliona has abused her position as Chairman.  Unfortunately, Apoliona is either self-delusional or suffering from self-denial.  No one is perfect, yet she continues to portray her leadership as flawless.  I’ve heard about accentuating the positive, but give me a break.  How many new OHA programs can she point to that has occurred in the last two years?  Our existing programs are in shambles from neglect.

One really has to ask what we are doing for our beneficiaries besides lobbying for Federal Recognition.  While it is important for Hawaiians to be officially recognized by the federal government, our people have other, more pressing needs in health care, housing, and education.

I made every effort to get answers to my questions and concerns through the proper channels.  I have many memos to OHA’s administration and staff asking for answers on how our beneficiaries’ money is being spent.  If you read the budget today, you could swear that all OHA is paying for are lawyers’ fees.  The frustrating part is that Apoliona only uses double-speak and rarely gives any clear answers.

So now, it seems, the only means I have to get to the bottom of Apoliona’s shenanigans is to openly call her on it.  Instead of responding to my concerns, Apoliona chooses to ignore them and, through her administrative aide, attempts to indirectly bully me into silence.  But this is nothing new.  Just look at a small sampling of Apoliona’s past involvement in misdeeds:

  • Sending an e-mail to all OHA staff to evaluate the previous administrator in an effort to discredit and humiliate him and force him to resign;
  • Forwarding confidential memos to the media to discredit fellow trustees. 
  • Leaking a confidential and uncertified recording of a former trustee’s conversation at a community meeting to the media in order to ruin her reputation;
  • Slandering a former state department head; and
  • Harassing competent and capable administrative staff until they were finally forced to leave.

As far as I’m concerned, as long as Apoliona endorses a policy that allows OHA staff members to publicly discredit any Trustee or administrative staff who disagrees with her, OHA will be plagued with internal strife that will continue to cause morale problems and dissention for both staff and trustees.  Behavior such as this cannot be consider constructive or pono.

As for the issues I brought up in my last article, I am ready, willing, and able to publicly debate Apoliona anywhere and at anytime.  Imua e Hawai’i nei…

Choose the right candidate for OHA Trustee


Source: October 2004 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Article

`Ano`ai kakou…  Here are a few things our beneficiaries should know before voting in the November election:

OHA resources used for campaign purposes.

Last year, OHA produced hundreds of compact disks featuring OHA Chairman Haunani Apoliona’s rendition of the Na Wai Oiwi Olino chant.  It was then distributed as part of the Federal Recognition campaign.  No other Trustee ended up on the CD.  Wouldn’t it have been great if we all recorded the chant together in a show of unity?  But then it would have been useless to Apoliona as a campaign tool.

OHA also paid for a political poll that helped Apoliona’s re-election campaign.  In July of 2003, OHA hired Ward Research to conduct a telephone survey of Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians and how they felt about 11 Hawaiian “leaders.”  Again, like the CD, Apoliona was the only (current) Trustee included in the list.

Thanks to the survey, Chairman Apoliona learned:  1). Her approval rating among Hawaiians was 57% and is greater than her potential rivals Clayton Hee (47%) and Mililani Trask (46%);  2). Among non-Hawaiians, her approval rating was 29% and significantly lower than Clayton Hee (39%);  3). Over 50% of non-Hawaiians surveyed never heard of her; and  4). Mililani Trask’s approval rating had improved from 42% overall in the year 2000 to 46% in the year 2003, making Trask a greater political threat in an election.

The list of Hawaiian leaders polled also included what are obviously some of Apoliona’s friends.  She probably wanted to see whether they would be viable political candidates, just like former UH President Evan Dobelle who used UH funds to conduct a survey on his chances for elected office.  Since Apoliona’s administrative aide worked with Ward Research on the poll, one can only guess who gave them the names for the list.

Favoritism over professionalism.

Last year, OHA invited the Hawaiian community to attend presentations on Federal Recognition.  Again, Apoliona’s aide (among others) was asked to sign the invitation letter.  Her aide, as well as others who signed the letter, missed 95% of the meetings they invited the community to attend.

Apoliona’s aide appears again in a soon to be released OHA video as the narrator.  Since this video is being produced by a noted local filmmaker, one has to question why a trustee’s aide was chosen over a recognized professional.

Self-serving Trustees.

I wrote in my June article that Trustee Stender was trying to get around OHA’s spending limit.  Well I was right.  Stender hired a lawyer (without approval of the Board, violating OHA by-laws) who proposed that OHA reclassify its ceded land revenues as “income.”  This means that the $9.5 million a year we now received from ceded lands will no longer go straight into the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund to be saved.  OHA will now spend all of the ceded land money it gets each year from the state.

Stender claims that the Trust Fund will continue to grow through investments.  Let’s pray there isn’t another crash in the stock market.  We lost about $100 million when the internet stock “bubble” burst a few years ago.

All of OHA’s assets will be turned over to the Hawaiian nation once it is formed.  Our Trust Fund has about $323 million as of mid-August.  Kamehameha Schools spends that much in just one year.  The nation can’t possibly survive on so little.  So why would Apoliona support Stender’s attempts to weaken the Trust Fund?  It’s simple; it’s a vote that has kept her in the chairmanship.

We need trustees with integrity whose only motivation is to build a strong nation.  We need honest people who have courage, work hard, and don’t mind having their accomplishments go unnoticed.  In other words, the self-serving need not apply.

Remember, the General Election is on November 2nd so mark your calendars.  Be maka ala and Imua!

Apoliona’s ‘Campaign Slogan?’


Source: July 2004 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  For about a year now, Board Chairman Haunani Apoliona has been heavily promoting a particular chant, the Na Oiwi Olino, to start off our Board meetings. 

Could there be an ulterior motive behind her vigorous efforts to push this chant?  Has it conveniently become her campaign slogan?  Let’s look at the facts.

The chant was composed by OHA staff for the Na Wai Olino rally (sponsored by OHA) at Iolani Palace back on January 15, 2003.

In early spring of 2003, OHA produced a CD recording of the chant as an “instructional tool” for our beneficiaries and the community.

Flip the CD cover over and you will see that “Track 1” of the 4-track CD features an introduction by “OHA Chairperson Haunani Apoliona.”  “Track 3” of the CD features the chant performed by “Haunani Apoliona.”

OHA staff asked Apoliona to give the introduction in her capacity as Chairman of the Board.  While she was in the studio recording the introduction, she was also asked to help with the audio recording of the chant.

Hundreds of CD’s were then individually packaged and distributed at OHA sponsored halawai and other events.

So the bottom line is this:  (1) OHA produced a CD featuring Apoliona; (2) She was the only Trustee asked to participate; and (3) She is heavily promoting the chant to the point where it’s difficult to separate her from it.

So is the CD campaign-related?  I feel that Apoliona is skating on “thin ice” ethically and should have known better, especially since she is up for re-election this year.  Everyone knows that you cannot use state tax dollars or resources for campaign-related items.

It’s just too convenient that Apoliona has this wonderfully packaged CD to hand out to the public in the year leading up to her election.  It is definitely a huge and unfair advantage over the candidates who are running against her.  I’m sure her opponents would love to have a similar CD, paid for by OHA, to hand out when they campaign.

In any case, Apoliona should really consider ceasing all distribution of the CD until she can get an opinion from the state ethics commission that it is not campaign related.  She should also think about not using it to start off every official Board meeting.

Finally, OHA’s new Office of Board Services has recently compiled a list of all 2004 Board accomplishments.  If the past is any indication, I’m sure Apoliona will use the report as her laundry list of personal accomplishments, taking credit for everything OHA has done, even though she may have had nothing directly to do with them.

In the six years Apoliona has served on the Board, she can hardly lay claim to even one program that she has put into place for our people.  Instead of taking credit for how well OHA is doing, she should take some responsibility for the sorry state of OHA’s beneficiary programs.  During the last two years, OHA programs in education, health, and housing have suffered from gross neglect.  Even the Aha Kupuna Conference was cancelled last year.

For the last two years, Apoliona has only focused on Federal Recognition.  While Federal Recognition is very important, OHA cannot and must not forget the immediate needs of our people.  After all, how can you build a nation when a significant segment of our Hawaiian Community is unhealthy, uneducated, and unhappy?”  Let us build a nation for all our people.  I mua e Hawai’i nei…