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Friday, November 10, 2000

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Cayetano says
Hee, Stender are
‘prime candidates’
to head OHA

By Pat Omandam

Either Clayton Hee or Oswald Stender would be a good chairman of the board for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, said Gov. Ben Cayetano.

"Obviously, Clayton Hee or Oz Stender, those two I think are the prime candidates," Cayetano said yesterday.

"Oz brings a great deal of experience from his service on the Bishop Estate, and Clayton has done a decent job over the past couple of years for OHA, given the board that he had to contend with," the governor said.

Five members of the last elected board will return to their posts later this month once the 20-day challenge period for the OHA election is over. The nine trustees elected by all of Hawaii voters are the board's most diverse in years, making interesting discussion about just who will lead the board for the next two years.

The trustees are Hee, Stender, Haunani Apoliona, Colette Machado, Donald Cataluna, Linda Dela Cruz, Rowena Akana, John Waihee IV and Charles Ota, the first non-Hawaiian elected as OHA trustee.

While not saying he wants to remain as chairman, Hee said on election night he would call to congratulate the new board members and talk about the agency.

"I'll talk to them about the organization, and we'll take it from there," said Hee, who along with Ota and Machado were appointed interim trustees by Cayetano.

Apoliona said she hasn't spoken to Hee since the last elected board resigned in early September. She said the governor shouldn't try to influence the OHA chairmanship.

"I think the governor has the right to express his opinion, but this is really going to be a decision by trustees who have been elected by the people, not appointed," she said yesterday.

Apoliona would not say if she was interested in the board leadership but said the board needs principled, ethical leadership that puts people before politics.

Apoliona, Cataluna and Machado ran as a coalition during the election and need the support of two other trustees to form a majority faction. Ideally, however, a larger majority would help stabilize the board. The new trustees are talking to each other about reorganization, Apoliona said.

Dela Cruz said she hasn't discussed leadership with any of the trustees yet, and she looks forward to meeting them all. Dela Cruz, a perennial candidate in Big Island races, said she didn't expect to beat the incumbents.

"I'm excited," Dela Cruz said. "This came as a shock to me."

Stender is on the mainland and returns Tuesday. Many of the new trustees are expected to attend an OHA interim board meeting on Monday.

Cayetano said he's pleased with the OHA election results and hopes this new board will put an end to the public infighting that has marked past OHA boards.

The governor also hopes the new trustees will end "ethnic politics," where trustees in the past have publicly blamed non-Hawaiians for their problems.

"You heard that from Mililani Trask ... (and) Frenchy DeSoto," Cayetano said. "That's the kind of game they always play. They always blame non-Hawaiians for their particular problems.

"Now that the OHA trustees have to answer to everyone, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian, I think you're going to see things settle down," he said. "They basically are going to try and do what they think is best for OHA and its beneficiaries."

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