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Wednesday, December 20, 2000

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
OHA trustees, sworn in today at Kawaiahao Church, are,
from left, Don Cataluna, Rowena Akana, John Waihee IV,
Haunani Apoliona, Clayton Hee, Linda Dela Cruz, Charles
Ota, Colette Machado and Oswald Stender.

OHA leader choice
could come on Friday

An unsuccessful challenge
to the election has kept the
trustees away from their
work for six weeks

By Pat Omandam

Newly elected trustees at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs took their oath of office today at Kawaiahao Church, six weeks after the historic OHA election in which every Hawaii voter got a chance to select those charged with bettering conditions for native Hawaiians.

OHA logo Hawaii Chief Justice Ronald Moon officiated at the morning ceremony, which was followed by an investiture that welcomed the trustees as leaders in the Hawaiian community.

Although the trustees now can act officially as the next OHA board, who will lead the high-profile group remains anyone's guess. Three people have served as chairperson since 1997, and the contenders touted this year include Haunani Apoliona, Oswald Stender and Rowena Akana.

"Right now there's a little bit of jockeying going on, and it's between two people," Akana said. "That's all I can really tell you right now."

Apoliona, who this past year served as chairwoman of OHA's Budget Committee and had served as board vice chairwoman under former trustee A. Frenchy DeSoto, said she is committed to her campaign promise of putting Hawaiian beneficiaries before politics but will not say if she is interested in leading the board.

"I think for me it is to serve where I'm needed and where I can do the best for the board," she said yesterday. "Wherever I can serve to fulfill our trustees' responsibilities, that's what I want to do."

After an unsuccessful challenge to the OHA election that postponed the board's scheduled Nov. 28 swearing-in ceremony, trustees are eager to get to work. For example, they could not wait for OHA administrator Randy Ogata to file a required six-day meeting notice that allows them to meet.

Instead, a majority of trustees last week filed their own meeting agenda, and plan to meet Friday at OHA offices to select a chairperson and vice chairperson, and to discuss the OHA biennium budget and pending OHA lawsuits.

Their action raises the question of whether trustees-elect can call for an official board meeting before they are sworn in. But Apoliona says the OHA bylaws allow a majority of trustees to file meeting notices. Moreover, she hopes that plans to organize the board on Friday are not delayed by more "technicalities. We're trying to get to the business of doing the business of OHA. ... We need to move the work along. We've been stymied and delayed too long," she said.

"So we expect to be able to organize. And hopefully, there will be everyone there who should be there to move it along."

Three trustees are new to the OHA board; three others served as appointed interim trustees this fall after the elected OHA board resigned to avoid state legal action to remove them from office.

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E-mail to City Desk

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