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Thursday, September 7, 2000

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Cayetano says
he’ll consider
OHA trustees

If they resign, he says,
he'll weigh naming them to
serve until the election

By Pat Omandam

Gov. Ben Cayetano said today that if Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees resign tomorrow, he will consider appointing them for the 60-day period before the Nov. 7 election.

"I will consider reappointing all of them for that brief period of time," Cayetano said.

But the governor said he will also consider appointing others as well, including non-Hawaiians if they are qualified to serve as an OHA trustee.

Cayetano said the five trustees whose terms expire in 2002 need to resign or the state will pursue court action to vacate their seats. And if the state does that, he will not appoint them as interim trustees.

"If the ones who have terms which expire in 2002 want that office, they need to resign and run for it. Otherwise, I will not reappoint them if they don't resign. And they have until tomorrow, I believe," he said.

Holo I Mua: Sovereignty Roundtable The governor said speculation among a few trustees that he wants to appoint an OHA board that agreed with the state's position on a ceded land settlement is ludicrous. He said it would take as long as two years to settle the issue.

Cayetano called such talk a "red herring" by trustees to gain public support.

"There is no way we can settle the ceded lands issue in two months, and they know it, those who are saying this," he said.

The OHA board plans to meet this afternoon to complete plans on how to respond to a state petition filed in Circuit Court that challenges the authority of trustees and seeks their removal from office.

So far, a plan for the entire board to resign to cure the problems caused by the Rice vs. Cayetano decision is turning out to be a difficult choice for trustees. "It isn't a done deal yet," said trustee Rowena Akana, who said the board is not unanimous on any decision."Not by a long shot."

OHA Chairman Clayton Hee said the board has not responded to the petition filed by the state attorney general's office because it is still discussing the matter with its attorney, retired Associate Justice Robert Klein. The board met for several hours yesterday.

Hee said an agreement reached earlier in the week to have all nine trustees stand for election this year remains on the table, although the idea has frustrated some board members.

Still, he is hopeful that when the time comes for them to "fish or cut bait" they will do what is best for OHA and its beneficiaries.

Under the proposed scenario, eight of the nine trustees would resign sometime tomorrow -- exactly 60 days before the general election -- thereby giving all Hawaii voters a rare chance to vote for the entire board at one time.

Trustee Donald Cataluna was appointed to the board by Gov. Ben Cayetano and his term expires this year.

Those resignations would be in response to an opinion by the Hawaii Supreme Court that declared the board serves in a de facto status because of the Rice decision, which struck down the Hawaiians-only voting restriction in OHA elections.

Another scenario would be for the five trustees whose terms expire in 2002 to resign, while those up for re-election this year remain in office to Nov. 6.

That plan would leave the board unable to make quorum to conduct business or to appoint interim trustees.

But it would allow Hawaii voters to choose all nine trustees.

"I think we're trying to be as clear and methodical as we can be in trying to balance both the right things to do and keeping in mind our purpose in being here," said trustee Haunani Apoliona.

"And I guess I would underline the fact that we continue collectively to make very clear to both the court and the public, our community, that this trusteeship is one that should be elected.

"The people should decide ... That's a resounding point of view," Apoliona said.

But if there is no agreement on what to do, trustees could decide individually to resign or remain in office.

Those who remain could then appoint interim trustees to ensure the board has a quorum to conduct business until after the OHA elections.

OHA Special

Rice vs. Cayetano arguments

Rice vs. Cayetano decision

Holo I Mua: Sovereignty Roundtable

E-mail to City Desk

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