Still, OHA pays its employees well, with nobody on staff earning so little as to be eligible for food stamps.
While payroll typically is an organization’s largest expense, salaries make up only about 22 percent of OHA’s $40 million annual budget. By comparison, the University of Hawaii and Hawaii Health Systems Corp., two other so-called semi-autonomous state agencies, spend 67 percent and 63 percent, respectively, on payroll.
Civil Beat has created a searchable database for full members to make the data more accessible. Here’s an example of such a database.
The rest of OHA’s operating budget goes toward fulfilling its mission “to malama Hawaii’s people and environmental resources and OHA’s assets, toward ensuring the perpetuation of the culture, the enhancement of lifestyle and the protection of entitlements of Native Hawaiians, while enabling the building of a strong and healthy Hawaiian people and nation, recognized nationally and internationally.” That includes grants to service providers, investing in advocacy initiatives (such as support for the Akaka Bill) and legal services.
While OHA is a government agency and its employees all receive state benefits, including participation in retirement and health plans, only 6 percent of its budget this year — $2.47 million — came from the state’s general fund. The rest of its funding came from ceded lands revenue from the state, investments and federal funds. By state law, 20 percent of all “income and proceeds” derived from the public land trust — 1.2 million acres of ceded land held in trust for the benefit of Native Hawaiians — are to be paid annually to OHA.
OHA initially balked at Civil Beat’s request, claiming its employees are not “public employees” because some of “their salaries are totally funded by ‘non-public’ trust funds.”
Following an opinion by the state’s Office of Information Practices, which concluded that OHA is a government agency and its salary information is subject to disclosure under Hawaii law, OHA provided two lists of its employees. One list contained 62 employees whose salaries are partially paid using money from the state’s general fund. The second list included the remaining 86 employees, whose salaries OHA says are funded entirely by non-public trust funds.
OHA has an annual budget of about $40 million, and is spending $8.67 million on salaries this year.
The agency received approximately $15.1 million in ceded lands revenue from the state this fiscal year. It got another $18.8 million from an investment portfolio, which is made up of stocks, bonds, and private equity. (The portfolio has a value of about $350 million, and OHA spends 5 percent annually.) An additional $2.47 million comes from the state’s general fund and another $2.7 million in federal funds, which includes grants, a revolving loan fund, and mitigation payments from the building of the H-3 Freeway.
Here’s a general breakdown of its expenses:
$10 million for legal services and contracts that cover everything from office rent and operations to program services.
$9 million in grants statewide.
$4.5 million for such expenses as promotional materials, advertising, seminars/conferences and scholarships.
$2 million to service providers to provide social services, legal services and educational enrichment.
$2 million on overhead such as utilities and office supplies.
$1.5 million for Hiilei Aloha LLC, which OHA formed to own, operate and manage Waimea Valley on Oahu’s North Shore.
A Civil Beat analysis of the data shows OHA employees earn an average salary of $59,784 and a median salary of $54,000. This is the only agency we’ve dealt with where everybody’s actual salary is public. Hawaii’s open records law only requires salary ranges be disclosed for unionized employees, and none of OHA’s 145 employees are unionized. We can’t be sure exactly how other public departments compare because they include workers in collective bargaining units, but the national average salary for employees of local and state governments is $51,176, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
OHA’s highest-paid employee is its CEO, Clyde Namuo, who earns $129,000 annually. His pay is lower than those of the president and CEO of Hawaii Health Systems Corp. ($195,938); the president of the University of Hawaii system ($427,512); and the superintendent of the Department of Education ($150,000). On the opposite end of the scale, the lowest paid position at OHA is a community outreach coordinator at $25,200. (Eligibility for federal food assistance for a single person caps out at $24,936.)
Here’s a list of the 10 highest-paid employees.
Chief Executive Officer
Chief Operating Officer
Chief Financial Officer/Resource Mgmt. Director
Community Relations Director
Senior Legal Counsel
Special Assistant to CEO
HIPTAC Program Manager
OHA has seven departments: advocacy (35 employees), board of trustees (25 employees), community relations (25 employees), corporate counsel (five employees), executive office (eight employees), research (13 employees) and resource management (34 employees).
Its nine-member board of trustees, who are elected by Hawaii voters, is responsible for setting policy and managing the agency’s trust. Trustees are elected to four-year terms, and there is no limit to the number of terms a trustee may serve. OHA trustees are paid $53,568 annually, while the board’s chairperson is paid $61,068. That’s more than Honolulu City Council members make; councilors earn $49,824, and the chairman makes $55,666.
OHA trustees have a support staff of nine trustee aides ($52,320 annual salary) and six trustee secretaries ($41,076 annual salary).
A Civil Beat analysis of the data shows that most positions at OHA are unique, meaning there aren’t many repetitive titles. The most common positions at OHA are community outreach coordinators (13); trustees and trustee aides (nine each); research analysts (seven); and public policy advocates, compliance specialists and executive assistants (four each). Remaining positions are ones that appear twice at most on the full list of employees.