Tuesday, March 2, 1999

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OHA officials seek
board OK on ceded
land issues

By Pat Omandam


Negotiators for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs today are expected to seek board approval on possible big-ticket issues relating to a ceded land revenue settlement with the state.

No one from either side would say what those may be.

"There's been offers, counteroffers and counter-counteroffers," says Cayetano Chief of Staff Sam Callejo, head negotiator for the state.

Callejo yesterday said there has been progress in the talks but declined to elaborate on any settlement offer pending a review at today's OHA special board meeting. But he said if OHA and the state can agree in concept on some substantive, big-ticket items, then the other details can be worked out quickly.

"But if we can't even agree on a concept, then it becomes a problem. And that's what has been going on back and forth," he said.

OHA Chairwoman Rowena Akana could not be reached for comment yesterday. OHA spokesman Ryan Mielke said negotiators Akana, Mililani Trask and Clayton Hee today will brief the nine-member board on "substantive issues" related to the talks as well as seek a consensus on them.

OHA has said it is looking for a settlement that includes lands, cash and services.

Any action taken would come about 60 days after the state and OHA appeared before the Hawaii Supreme Court to review efforts to resolve past-due revenues from Hawaii's public land trust.

Members of OHA's negotiating team last Dec. 30 asked the justices for a 60-day extension of a court-ordered Dec. 1 negotiation deadline, attributing delays to last fall's post-election leadership changes at OHA. Since then, both sides have attempted to meet weekly to resolve the matter.

The justices last April heard oral arguments on the state's appeal of former Circuit Judge Daniel Heely's 1996 ruling in a OHA case that stated the semiautonomous agency is entitled to revenue generated by land used by the Waikiki Duty Free Store, Hilo Hospital, the Hawaii Housing Authority and the state Department of Housing and Finance.

Estimates of the past-due revenue range between $300 million and $1.2 billion.

Jim Branham, chief clerk of the Hawaii Supreme Court, said yesterday there has been no orders issued by the justices since the Dec. 30 hearing, when Chief Justice Ronald T.Y. Moon warned any decision by the high court would be risky to both parties.

Deputy Attorney General Charlene Aina, who provides legal assistance to the state's negotiating team, said the state's appeal of Heely's decision has run its course, and now rests entirely with the justices.

"The appeal is at that point where the only thing left to do is to rule," Aina said. "But if they (justices) wanted to call us in again and say, 'how you doin' guys?' they have that prerogative."

By law, OHA is paid 20 percent of the revenues derived from ceded lands. A 1997 law that expires on June 30 froze OHA's revenue payments at $15.1 million a year.

Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae), chairwoman of the Senate Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs committee, said yesterday a Senate bill relating to the public land trust could be rewritten with a proposed settlement if one is reached this session.

The bill is up for decision-making today before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

January '97 OHA Ceded Lands Ruling

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