A Board of Trustees meeting at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs abruptly ended shortly after it started Thursday when a majority of the members walked out.
At least five trustees walked out after Chair Rowena Akana announced that she was deferring two items from the agenda until a later date. The nine-member board, already down to eight because Trustee John Waihee IV was absent, thus lost quorum and could no longer continue its business.
The removed agenda items — to form a committee to find a new chief financial officer and to change the title of OHA’s “chief executive officer” to “administrator” — directly involve CEO Kamana’opono Crabbe, who Akana is trying to remove from his position.
The board room audience included at least a dozen members of the public who indicated they wished to testify.
But Akana, citing state Sunshine Law and backed up by legal counsel, said it was within her authority to change the agenda. Only written testimony would be accepted regarding Crabbe, she said.
The reason for the change, said Akana, was because she did not want to convene “a circus.”
Trustee Colette Machado, a former board chair, strongly disagreed with Akana’s unilateral move. She called it “unfair” and noted that some testifiers had flown to Honolulu from the neighbor islands.
Another trustee, Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey, agreed, saying people showed up at the meeting so that their voices could be heard.
Trustee Dan Ahuna asked whether OHA beneficiaries — Native Hawaiians — were informed of the schedule change. They were not.
“Hewa!” someone in the audience shouted, using a word that can mean “wrong,” “incorrect” and even “sin.”
Machado, Ahuna and Trustees Robert Lindsey Jr., Peter Apo and Lei Ahu Isa then got up from their chairs at the board table and walked out. So did Hulu Lindsey, although it was unclear whether she was joining the others.
Akana and new trustee Kelii Akina remained behind.
So, too, did several state sheriffs, who were on hand in case things got out of hand.
Akana latter issued this statement, explaining why once she removed the agenda items, public testimony on them could not be taken:
The decision to defer testimony on items not present on today’s agenda was made to comply with Hawaii’s open meetings laws. If members of our board deliberate or comment on testimony related to non-agendized items, the board may violate such laws.
Accordingly, I used my discretion as Chair to defer such testimony until the item was placed on a future agenda. Beneficiaries were still able to submit written testimony today to the board. Moreover, beneficiaries are able to orally testify when such items are included on a future agenda.