March 11, 2018
FORMER GOVERNOR: “ABOLISH OFFICE OF HAWAIIAN AFFAIRS”
HONOLULU – The day after the HawaiiNewsNow television news story revealed that the FBI had joined a state investigation into the mismanagement of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), former Governor Ben Cayetano called for the abolishment of the multimillion trust created by the Hawaii State Constitution for the benefit of the Native Hawaiian people. Cayetano said, “After nearly 40 years, the agency is failing at its mission.” To do away with the quasi-autonomous state agency would require an amendment to the 1978 Hawaii State constitution.
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A “scathing” state audit had earlier revealed massive financial and management problems at OHA and with two internal audits now under way, the beleaguered organization has definitely entered new territory. Secrecy and general lack of transparency continued during OHA’s Wednesday, March 9 board meeting when OHA Chair Collette Machado refused to divulge even the name of the new investigating entity (FBI) even though the Attorney General’s office had sent a letter to OHA advising them of the FBI involvement. All such communications are in the public domain. After the board went into executive session behind closed doors, it was soon leaked that OHA attorney Robert Klein had advised the nine board members to hire their own attorneys.
The focus of the various investigations are the OHA CEO Kamana’opono Crabbe and five Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) which seemingly have little or no oversight by the OHA board of directors with full control by Crabbe.
In January 2017, newly elected OHA Chair Rowena Akana and four other trustees offered OHA CEO Crabbe a buyout of his contract “so that we could have a fresh start with a new CEO and correct many of the issues that have now been revealed by the state auditor” as Akana later wrote. Only a month later, Akana was voted out as Chair.
Akana said, “ I believe I was removed because of the sweeping changes I intended to make within the organization. After I was removed as Chair, the efforts to reform OHA came to a halt and things went back to the status quo when Machado was chosen as my replacement, and the CEO was back in business. At the time of my ouster, I warned OHA’s new leadership that one cannot hide the truth, that it was only a matter of time before the public found out about what was really going on here. I believe the recent state auditor’s report says it all.”