Friday, April 6, 2001

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Search for OHA
administrator delayed
as board defers agenda

By Pat Omandam

A decision on whether to begin the search for a new administrator of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was delayed for two weeks after a deeply divided board could not even agree on what it should talk about at its latest meeting.

Yesterday's board meeting began calmly with an opening prayer and ended abruptly after trustees voted 5-4 to defer the entire meeting agenda for 14 days to give them time to study the recommendations before them.

Along with the search for a new administrator, the agenda included a post-Rice vs. Cayetano outreach campaign, community budget presentations, OHA positions on state legislation and closed-session updates on various lawsuits involving the state agency.

"There are a lot of important things to do at this office, and on the agenda were important issues," said OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona.

"By deferring the whole agenda, nothing could be taken up."

During the stormy, two-hour debate to defer the agenda -- which had at least one OHA staff member shaking his head at this twist on board politics -- supporters of Administrator Randy Ogata questioned the need to spend $24,500 to hire consultant Stanley Lum to begin a three-month search for a new administrator.

OHA budget Chairman Oz Stender had proposed hiring the consultant.

Trustee Charles Ota said Ogata's two-year contract does not expire until June 30, and criticized the expenditure as unnecessary.

"We never fire this bugga here yet," Ota said.

Trustee Rowena Akana said OHA bylaws require any action on a new administrator be approved by two committees. Also, she said, the board would be giving Apoliona a "blank check" to make decisions on the bid and hiring process.

But Stender disagreed, saying all nine trustees were present at yesterday's meeting, and each could have given input on the proposed action. Stender said the agency needs options because Ogata's contract will end in 90 days. Ogata is free to reapply for his post, he said.

"We are not terminating his contract," Stender said.

"It expires on its own merits in June."

OHA Vice Chairman Donald Cataluna said it is the responsibility of trustees to begin the recruitment process to find the best person possible. The administrator's position pays $85,000 a year, but some trustees believe a pay hike will attract many top-quality candidates.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs

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