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Friday, March 9, 2001

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Former OHA
trustee’s suit lacks
basis, Akana says

By Debra Barayuga

Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Rowena Akana said the state agency never denied former trustee Adelaide "Frenchy" DeSoto support for any official functions.

Akana was responding to a Circuit Court lawsuit filed Wednesday by DeSoto against OHA, claiming she was denied kakoo, or a helper to enable her to fulfill her duties as trustee.

"It's really sad to see that a former trustee would sue the agency trying to extract money from beneficiaries when you're supposed to be protecting the trust," Akana said.

Because of medical disabilities, DeSoto said doctors recommended she have someone help her to her car or drive her to activities.

"I'm sure the court case will vindicate myself and OHA because there really is no truth to the fact she was denied the same kakoo services provided to other trustees in the past," Akana said.

The suit singled out Akana, chairwoman in 1999, contending she was regularly denied kakoo from 1998 to 2000.

DeSoto was chairwoman in 1998 and Hee in 2000.

Akana said DeSoto wanted OHA to pay for someone to personally assist her in her daily needs, including driving her to and from her Waianae home to OHA offices.

Akana said that as chairwoman she did deny the request because OHA had no guidelines concerning that type of request. DeSoto had an aide and secretary.

Because of liability issues, "I could not unilaterally make those decisions -- it was a board decision," Akana said. It could have created a new policy, but none of the trustees felt they should take on the extra liability, she said.

There is nothing in OHA policy that provides for kakoo, but for a number of years, the board has agreed that a portion of the budget be set aside for such services to assist trustees on neighbor island trips, Akana said.

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