Tuesday, June 26, 2001

Waihee not offended by
OHA colleague’s profanity

By Pat Omandam

When Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Charlie Ota called colleague John D. Waihee IV a "son-of-a-bitch young bastard" at a public meeting last Thursday, you could hear the collective gasp from trustees, as well as from those in attendance.

For any politician, abstaining from profanity at any open meeting is a no-brainer. But for Ota to disparage the son of a former Hawaii governor -- especially with the media watching and Waihee not there to defend himself -- just reflects poorly on an OHA board that already has an image problem, Waihee said yesterday.

Waihee said neither he nor his parents were really offended by Ota's remarks, but other relatives who saw television news reports of the meeting were. The freshman trustee said he is more concerned about the board's public image and how it may affect efforts to help better conditions for native Hawaiians.

"Internally, people see this and they draw an impression of us, and it not only affects us, but it affects the work we do or try to do," Waihee said.

"And right now, with all these Hawaiians entitlements under attack, we're not helping our causes by acting this way."

At past meetings, Ota has said his uses of profanity were merely jokes not to be taken personally.

OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said yesterday she sent Ota a memo suggesting he apologize to Waihee for his remarks.

Last Thursday, Ota was upset at Waihee and four other trustees who voted for Clyde Namuo as the next OHA administrator. He and trustee Linda Dela Cruz wanted to first discuss the nomination, but they did not act quickly enough to call for discussion once Namuo's nomination was made.

Waihee left the meeting immediately after the 5-2 vote to attend an education conference. Later, Ota asked former trustee A. Frenchy DeSoto, who attended the meeting, if the board action was legal. As Ota was making a point, he noticed Waihee was no longer at the board table.

"Waihee -- where the hell is that bastard?" Ota said as he questioned the board vote.

"I want to tell Frenchy what transpired this morning was improper. Would you have (stood) for it? She doesn't know. I don't know. Now, what the hell is going on? And yet, these one, two, three, four and that son-of-a-bitch young bastard not here ..." Ota said.

DeSoto said Ota's comments are an example of the agency's "depreciation" over the last four years, which has come at the expense of the Hawaiian people.

"I have been with the worst, and I have been with the best. There's no need for this," said DeSoto, who helped create OHA at the 1978 Hawaii Constitutional Convention.

Meanwhile, Waihee described Ota as a speaker who tends to use colorful adjectives, which he does not take too seriously or personally.

"There was blame to go all around on the board that day," he said. "That's the one thing we have to start dealing with."

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