Friday, September 10, 1999

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OHA’s security
practices decried

Hee odd man out

By Pat Omandam


Three of nine trustees at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, as well as other Hawaiians, are questioning new security practices at OHA after the arrest of a 71-year-old woman who wanted to speak her mind at a board meeting.

OHA trustees Haunani Apoliona, Colette Machado and A. Frenchy DeSoto criticized actions by Chairwoman Rowena Akana yesterday to have Johanna Lawrence escorted from OHA offices by state sheriffs. She was arrested after the meeting.

"We are horrified that a beneficiary presenting her concerns to OHA trustees would be arrested," Apoliona said. "We hope this will not deter beneficiaries from presenting their mana'o (thoughts) to trustees at the trust meetings that by law are public, open meetings."

DeSoto said, "OHA arresting an elderly beneficiary who was expressing her concerns is an outrage and an insult to our ancestors."

Akana could not be reached yesterday evening.

Akana ordered Lawrence, a regular at OHA meetings, removed because she was disruptive at the board meeting. Lawrence wanted to speak during the "community concerns" portion of the agenda but instead got into an argument with Akana after the chairwoman asked Lawrence not use the time to vilify trustees but to speak on agenda issues.

When Akana asked sheriff's deputies to escort Lawrence out of the fifth-floor boardroom, other Hawaiians came to her defense, including DeSoto.

The ruckus prompted Akana to call for a recess and she left the room about 10:30 a.m. yesterday. Vice Chairwoman Hannah Springer ended the meeting a short time later.

Lawrence and others then went up to trustees' offices on the 12th floor of the building, where a sheriff's deputy arrested Lawrence. Apoliona said she and Machado went to District Court and posted $50 bail for Lawrence, who is charged with criminal trespass. Her court date is 8:30 a.m. Sept. 15 in District Court.

Lawrence could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Akana, in her statement to Honolulu police, said Lawrence didn't submit any written testimony to the board but was allowed to give verbal testimony if she did not use the opportunity to insult board members. But others in the audience urged Lawrence on, eventually disrupting the meeting, she said.

Akana has had security present at full board meetings since she became chairwoman last November. This Wednesday, she issued a memo to OHA administration requiring all visitors to the agency to check in with the receptionists on the fifth and 12th floors and be escorted by OHA employees while in inner office or secured areas.

Lela Hubbard, another OHA regular who is a delegate for the Native Hawaiian Convention, believes it is an abuse of civil rights to deny a beneficiary a chance to speak at OHA meetings as long as they are not threatening anyone.

No other state agency has hearings with security present, so why should OHA, she said.

Hee odd man out in
committee shuffle

Star-Bulletin staff


The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has reorganized leadership on key budget and program committees, leaving longtime trustee and former board Chairman Clayton Hee without a committee to lead.

The board yesterday named trustee Louis Hao to replace Hee as chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee. Hao was vice chairman of the committee under Hee, who now becomes a committee member.

Some OHA trustees had complained that the Budget and Finance Committee was holding up funding of grants and other measures.

Trustee Colette Machado was named as chairwoman of the Program Management Committee, formerly chaired by Hao. Trustee A. Frenchy DeSoto is vice chairwoman.

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