Friday, September 21, 2001

OHA logo

OHA trustees call
for a meeting to
reshape leadership

Clayton Hee will likely be
reinstalled in the board
chairman's slot

By Pat Omandam

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, dealt a blow when the Hawaii Supreme Court ended ceded-land revenue payments to the agency last week, now faces a board leadership change that may throw it into further uncertainty.

Five trustees -- Clayton Hee, Rowena Akana, John D. Waihee IV, Charles Ota and Linda Dela Cruz -- have called for a reorganization meeting next Tuesday to replace current Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona and Vice Chairman Donald Cataluna.

The new majority will likely reinstall Clayton Hee as board chairman. If successful, it will be the fifth change in chairperson since 1997, when Hee, who had served as chairman for several years, was replaced by A. Frenchy DeSoto, who is now retired.

Word of the reorganization spread quickly yesterday through OHA headquarters, catching Apoliona and Collette Machado, another trustee, off guard. The two have been political allies since 1996 when they were elected to OHA.

Now, they find themselves possibly in the board minority once again, this time with trustees Donald Cataluna and Oswald Stender. Last December, six trustees supported Apoliona as chairwoman, but now two of them -- Waihee and Dela Cruz -- have switched sides.

"We're just as surprised at you," said Machado, who learned of the reorganization meeting early yesterday afternoon.

Apoliona said she was equally surprised by the action -- it takes five trustees to call a meeting to change the board leadership -- and regrets Vice Chairman Cataluna will not be in attendance next week because of medical reasons. "It's unfortunate this is being ramrodded so soon, but I'm sure there's rationale for that," Apoliona said.

"I would guess the opportunity that presented itself to wage this move by Clayton is the decision by the Supreme Court, and everything he tried to pitch," she said.

Hee and most other trustees could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Ever since the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated on Sept. 12 the state law requiring OHA be paid 20 percent of revenue from public trust lands, Hee has publicly criticized Apoliona and Machado for being part of a majority of trustees in April 1999 who voted to end negotiations with the state despite a settlement offer on the table.

OHA could have settled for $251 million and 360,000 acres of ceded land back then, but instead ended the talks, Hee has said. "That is a defining moment in the life of this agency," he said this week.

"It's a defining moment in the life of all those who voted -- OHA cuts its own throat," said Hee, who has said he will run for the lieutenant governor's office next year.

Akana, who along with Hee are OHA's senior trustees with 10 years each of service, said the decision to end negotiations two years ago now haunts OHA, and new leadership is needed.

Akana said the board has not been able to move forward under the current leadership, which does not have visionary ideas to carry the agency through these tough times.

"They can't see the big picture, they can't," Akana said this week. "For them to remain in leadership at this crucial time is also scary."

Office of Hawaiian Affairs

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin