Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs saw their paychecks go up at the start of the current fiscal year — their third consecutive annual raise. That while most state government employees have seen their pay frozen or reduced during the same time period.
While trustees got a wage boost, pay for the state agency’s senior executives remained unchanged from the year before, according to a Civil Beat analysis of salary data provided in response to an open-records request.
OHA is spending a total of $8.9 million on salaries for its 150 employees this year.
OHA’s nine-member board of trustees, who are elected by Hawaii voters, saw their salaries increase 3.5 percent to $55,440 on July 1, the start of the 2012 fiscal year. The chairperson’s salary also went up 3.5 percent to $63,204.
The Legislature had set salaries in 1993 for OHA trustees at $32,000, and $37,000 for the chairperson. Previously, their salaries had increased just once before, in 2004. The salary commission is formed every four years, with commissioners being nominated by Native Hawaiian organizations and appointed by the governor.
While OHA’s operating budget totals $41.8 million from all funding sources, it received just $2.44 million from the state’s general fund. Most of its funding — about $34 million — came from ceded lands revenue through the Public Land Trust. By law, 20 percent of all funds derived from the public land trust is to be paid to OHA annually “for the betterment of conditions of Native Hawaiians.”
The trustees’ salaries are not paid with general fund money. Only 57 of OHA’s 150 full time employees are paid from the state’s general fund. All of OHA’s employees, however, do receive state benefits, including participation in retirement and health plans.
Because most of its employees are paid with trust funds, OHA had asked the state’s Office of Information Practices to again weigh in on whether its employees should be considered “public employees,” and therefore have their salaries made public. OHA made the same request the year before, and was told that it was not exempt from the law. The open records agency reaffirmed that OHA is a government agency whose employees’ salaries are subject to disclosure.
OHA trustees serve in a year-round capacity and are responsible for setting OHA policy and managing the agency’s trust, among other duties.
The trustees’ pay rate is higher than Honolulu City Council members ($49,823) and state lawmakers ($46,273). Machado the chair earns more than the Honolulu City Council chair ($55,666) and the Senate President and House Speaker ($46,273).
OHA’s highest paid employee is its CEO, a position that pays $129,000. Long-time CEO Clyde Namuo retired Dec. 31, and Chief Operating Officer Richard Pezzulo has been named interim CEO as the organization searches for a permanent replacement.