Friday, June 22, 2001

OHA board
splits over
administrator vote

2 trustees aren't present as
5 others choose Clyde Namuo

By Pat Omandam

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs board may have gained a new administrator, but it comes at the expense of any remaining goodwill between the board leadership and those critical of chairwoman Haunani Apoliona.

"I would like to state this is one of the worst railroad jobs I have ever seen," said trustee Rowena Akana.

In a surprise quick vote that came just minutes after the meeting was reconvened in open session yesterday morning, five trustees approved the nomination of state Judiciary Deputy Administrator Clyde Namuo as OHA administrator.

The swift action, however, upset trustees Akana, Linda Dela Cruz and Charles Ota, who had wanted at least some discussion on the motion before a vote was taken.

Akana was present before the meeting started but left the boardroom to take a urgent telephone call from trustee Clayton Hee, who told her retired trustee Abraham Aiona had just died. Akana said Hee wanted her to ask the board to delay the meeting for 15 minutes while he made his way there from the home of Aiona's son in Waimanalo.

But when Akana returned to the boardroom, the vote for administrator was already taken.

"You're too late, Rowena," blurted a frustrated Dela Cruz, who along with Ota voted against Namuo's nomination.

After the 5-2 vote, Dela Cruz, Akana and Ota complained loudly the vote was fixed. Ota criticized trustee John D. Waihee IV, who was the swing vote on the board.

"If you don't need the rest of this board, and you think you can run it with the (four) people around you, you've got another thing coming lady," said Akana, who left the meeting and drove home.

Akana said later she was especially upset with Apoliona because seven trustees had agreed the day before to continue deliberations yesterday before they chose a nominee.

Dela Cruz said she was very disappointed at how the administrator was chosen because it was not what she had expected.

"I always heard about having a clique here, having a clique there. I never thought that I would get sucked into something like this," she said.

Board leadership, however, defended the vote saying all trustees had the opportunity to participate in interviews over the past three days but that certain trustees chose not to.

"The accusation that there was muzzling discussion was not so," Apoliona said.

Meanwhile, Namuo, 49, said he's given a "conditional yes" to the job, pending the outcome of contract negotiations. He has concerns about what perks come with the $85,000-a-year job and would prefer a longer contract than two years.

Namuo said he has several projects he wants to finish up if he leaves the Judiciary, where he has worked since he was 18 years old. He believes it may be his time to give back to the Hawaiian community.

"I'm Hawaiian," he said. "I want to make a difference."

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