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.

OHA Chair Rowena Akana walks out with Trustee Kealii Akina. Moments earlier, handful of trustees walked out, losing quorum over a public testimony issue. 12 jan 2017
OHA Chair Rowena Akana, right, walks out with Trustee Kelii Akina. Moments earlier, six other trustees walked out, costing the board its quorum and effectively ending the meeting. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

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.

OHA Board Trustee Henry Apo makes a point before a handful of trustees walked out including him, of the meeting. 12 jan 2017
Trustee Peter Apo was among the majority of board members that objected to a change in Thursday’s meeting agenda. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

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.

OHA ex Trustee Apoliona Speaks to Trustee Kealii Akina, telling him to “do the right thing.” Before OHA board lost quorum after a handful of trustees walked out of the meeting. 12 jan 2017
Former Trustee Haunani Apoliona tells Trustee Kelii Akina to “do the right thing.” Akina, who defeated Apoliona in the November election, replied, “Aloha, Auntie.” Cory Lum/Civil Beat

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.

Here are links to Civil Beat’s related reporting:

Chaos At OHA: A Power Struggle And Employee Accusations

OHA Board Votes To Buy Out Contract Of CEO Crabbe

Endless Infighting at OHA Starts To Cost Real Money

OHA Races Offer Stark Choices, But How Many Voters Will Care?

OHA: Agency at a Crossroads Is Caught in a Power Struggle

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