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.