Wednesday, December 29, 1999

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OHA board fails
to pick new trustee
on its 3rd try

Now, by state law, Gov. Cayetano
has 30 days to name an interim
trustee for Niihau and Kauai

By Anthony Sommer


LIHUE -- Gov. Ben Cayetano will have to choose an interim trustee for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

For the third meeting in a row, the OHA board yesterday failed to agree on a new member to represent Kauai and Niihau on the nine-member panel.

It was the last scheduled meeting of the year for the board, which has until Dec. 31 to make a choice.

"The decision will now go to Gov. Cayetano," an OHA news release said.

State law requires the power to make the choice to go to Cayetano since the trustees were unable to make the choice within 60 days of the seat becoming vacant.

The governor has 30 days to name the interim trustee.

Cayetano's office declined to comment on how soon he might act, or how he will make the selection.

"We'll issue a press release when he makes the appointment," said spokeswoman Kathleen Racuya-Markrich.

It would be the second time in two years the board was unable to fill a vacancy and the decision fell to Cayetano. Last year, he picked Gladys Brandt to serve out the final months of the term of the late Billie Beamer.

The board yesterday was evenly split, with four votes going to lawyer William Perry, and four votes to photographer and activist Randy Wichman. Six votes were needed to make a selection.

After deadlocking, the board proceeded to argue over whether to recommend to Cayetano both finalists, out of an original field of 17. They decided not to make any recommendation.

The mood of native Hawaiians in the audience -- many of whom had repeatedly urged the trustees to avoid giving the choice to the governor -- was uniformly downcast.

Chairwoman Rowena Akana adjourned the meeting so abruptly that she forgot the pule traditionally offered at the end of the meeting by a member of the audience. When she realized her mistake and asked for a volunteer to offer a chant, no one stepped forward.

The Kauai seat became vacant on the retirement of Moses Keale on Oct. 31. Keale had served for 19 years, and recommended Wichman as his replacement.

Keale's successor will fill the remainder of his term, which runs until a new trustee is elected in November next year.

The trustees' first attempt at choosing a replacement was on Nov. 15. Only five members attended, enough for a quorum but not enough to make a choice. At the meeting, the field was narrowed to seven people.

On Dec. 1, the board again tried with seven members present, and was split 5-2 in favor of Wichman.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs

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