Who does Winona Rubin work for?

By: Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Letter sent to The Garden Island Editor, October 15, 2008

I feel it is important for all of The Garden Island readers to know that Winona Rubin, who sent a negative letter against me on Saturday (“Sad state of affairs,” Letters, Oct. 11), currently works for Office of Hawaiian Affiars Chairperson Haunani Apoliona.

I am appalled that someone would hypocritically complain about “distortions” and “misinformation” and yet fail to disclose who she really works for and what the true motivations for her letter were – Job Security.

Rubin’s behavior is consistent with what she has done in the past.  For example, she has written negative letters against me and signed her sister’s name to them.  It is these kinds of actions that make me question the credibility and honesty of this person.

Rubin’s letter, therefore, needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

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.

Taking the High Road


Source: April 2008 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

‘Ano‘ai käkou… I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to the beloved Aunty Genoa Keawe, a genuinely warm and gentle person that was truly one of Hawai‘i’s greatest treasures. All of Hawai‘i wishes you Godspeed.


Since my December KWO column about the mass exodus of OHA employees, the “lock-down” security measures taken by the leadership to track employee whereabouts, and the low morale, etc., I have been locked in a war of words with Chairperson Apoliona’s chief of staff, Mrs. Winona Rubin, who placed a full-page ad in our January issue of the OHA newspaper trying to negate my comments. The ad was so ridiculous that I chose to answer it with a full-page ad of my own in the February issue (that many people said they never received through the mail) that went directly to the heart of my accusations. I asked Mrs. Rubin to explain the following: 

  • Perhaps Mrs. Rubin can explain in detail, the expenses for legal advice from attorneys who have not been able to deliver in any success in moving federal legislation forward.
  • Perhaps Mrs. Rubin can justify why there was no evaluation done on their performance before extending their contract for the past three years?
  • Perhaps Mrs. Rubin can justify all of the millions of trust dollars spent on our Kau Inoa registration done on the mainland where OHA spent money on nonprofit groups and others to sign up people, and paid for each person they signed up. There has been no accurate account distributed to OHA Trustees who have requested this information, estimated to be about $10 a signature for mainland registrations, which cannot possibly justify the millions of dollars that we have spent trying to collect those signatures.
  • 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 Hawai‘i, where 80 percent of the Hawaiian population reside.
  • Perhaps Mrs. Rubin can explain why Haunani Apoliona’s sister has been put in charge of the mainland registrations and flying first class each time.
  • Perhaps Mrs. Rubin can explain how Chairperson Apoliona’s sister received a charge card from OHA and accumulated $10,000 in charges before the card was taken away.
  • Perhaps Mrs. Rubin can explain how, when the charge card was taken away from the Chair’s sister, she continued to charge expenses for travel, receptions and various other charges on her personal charge account, then was allowed to submit for reimbursement for those charges even though in some instances she had no receipts.
  • Perhaps Mrs. Rubin can explain why this employee was not fired for these egregious actions. If she were not the Chair’s sister, would she have been fired?

Instead of a serious response, Mrs. Rubin chose to place another childlike and amateurish ad in the March issue of the Ka Wai Ola which was filled with colorful cartoons. Her ad also misleadingly displayed the OHA logo and implies that OHA sanctioned the ad. Mrs. Rubin has, to this day, never seriously addressed any of the concerns I raised. It is because of her adolescent attitude that I decided to take the high road and not dignify her ad with another response. However, I remain steadfast in my convictions that OHA has some serious internal problems that need to be addressed.

I was also surprised that Trustee Walter Heen devoted his entire February column in the Ka Wai Ola to justify how OHA awards grants to organizations that really shouldn’t be getting them. OHA has been subsidizing the state Department of Education with educational programs since 1993, even though they already receive more than half of the state budget. We need to be advocating for our beneficiaries as state law requires. It’s time we made the DOE accountable for their neglect of their kuleana.

Heen also disagrees with my claim that certain nonprofits are savvier and better staffed than Native Hawaiian nonprofits and therefore are able to capture more OHA grants. I see the same organizations coming back to OHA for money year after year, while small nonprofits are left behind. I believe as the senior member of the Board, serving 18 consecutive years, I have the historical and institutional memory that can bear my comments out. 

On Jan. 18, 2008, OHA’s leadership and the governor announced that they had reached a $200 million settlement to our dispute with the state over ceded land revenues that remained to be paid to OHA from 1978 to 2008. 

I raised several questions with our leadership regarding OHA’s proposed legislation to remove sections 4, 5 and 6 from Article XII of the state Constitution, which spoke to OHA’s 20 percent pro rata share of ceded land revenues and rights to natural resources and minerals, and replacing the language with a guarantee of at least $15.1 million going forward into the future. 

I also asked if this meant that we would lose all rights to minerals and natural resources in the future. The answer was NO??? But if you read the committee report for the settlement bill, HB 266 HD2, it specifically provides that the property conveyed by the bill to OHA does NOT include the minerals or surface or ground water rights! The state retains all of these rights!!!

I also brought up inflation and whether $15.1 million would be sufficient even five years from now? As the U.S. dollar continues to decline, what will a dollar really be worth? While OHA’s attorneys have tried to assure us that this is an OK deal, there has been no real explanation for not factoring in inflation to the $15.1 million going forward or the fact that the leases of ceded lands will be re-evaluated over time.

The fact that this is an election year for Chair Apoliona leads me to believe that this settlement agreement is being rushed through the Legislature in an attempt to give her a “leg up” for her upcoming re-election. It finally took the Legislature passing a concurrent resolution to force OHA to take the agreement out into the community for public input. Otherwise, it would have only been decided by OHA’s leadership, the governor’s administration and the Legislature. I believe that there is still time to let your legislators know your mana‘o regarding the settlement bill.


  • As I write this column, OHA’s division officer in charge of grants has suddenly quit without a reason being given and without even a goodbye.  Oddly enough, Trustees Apoliona and Stender seemed happy about the change.


  • I am currently investigating widespread reports from beneficiaries that they have not received their February issue of the Ka Wai Ola. Please call my office at 594-1860 if you have not received your copy and I will have one sent to you right away. This issue contains my controversial column that is critical of OHA’s settlement deal with the state, which may be seen as threatening to the passage of OHA’s settlement bill.
  • Beneficiaries have informed me that their letters to the Ka Wai Ola editor that criticized Mrs. Rubin for her negative ads were not published. While this is of no surprise to me, it is a confirmation that only what the leadership wants published gets published.

These tireless game being played by OHA’s leadership may delay information flowing from our office to the beneficiaries, but the truth will always come out in the end. And as time goes by, it only reaffirms the comments I made in my December ’07 column about the excessive security, “lock-down” mentality and why there continues to be an exodus of OHA personnel.

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.