A lawsuit settlement last month crafted by lawyers for trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs totaled $879,000 in legal fees.

OHA paid $614,000 while insurance company AIG paid $265,000.

The money was used to settle a 2013 lawsuit by Trustee Rowena Akana against her eight colleagues and 10 unnamed individuals.

The lawsuit stemmed from minutes of closed-door board meetings related to a real estate purchase. The targeted trustees subsequently countersued.

As part of the settlement, made Nov. 14, Akana apologized for the public release of confidential board matters.

OHA Office of Hawaiian Affairs building Na Lama Kukui, 560 Nimitz Highway. 5 sept 2016

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs building on Nimitz Highway. Its purchase led to a legal battle among OHA trustees.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Update: The trustees also issued a statement saying it was in the interest of OHA and its Native Hawaiian beneficiaries to avoid a trial. Trustee Lei Ahu Isa told Civil Beat Friday that she did sign the agreement statement.

The legal fees disclosure resulted from a records request made by Civil Beat earlier this month.

$600 Million Trust

OHA attorney Paul Alston and OHA officials did not respond Thursday to requests for a copy of the settlement agreement.

Asked for a breakdown of OHA’s share of the legal fees, Public Relations Officer Sterling Wong said, “It’s going to take us a little bit of time to figure out the details of where the funds came from. And a bunch of our fiscal staff is out on vacation. We will get back to you as soon as possible.”

As of 2016, OHA was a trust valued at $600 millionFor funding, it relies on a combination of public trust land revenue, interest and investment earnings, state general fund monies, commercial property leases and withdrawals from a trust fund.

OHA provided more than $14 million in grants in one year to qualified individuals and groups, which comprised nearly one-third of OHA’s then-$48 million operating budget. About $3 million also went to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

How much do you value our journalism?

Civil Beat focuses exclusively on the kind of journalism most at risk of disappearing – in-depth, investigative and enterprise coverage of important local issues. While producing this type of journalism isn’t cheap, you won’t find our content hidden behind a paywall. We also never worry about upsetting advertisers – because we don’t allow any. As a nonprofit newsroom, we rely on donations from readers like you to help keep our stories free and accessible to everyone. If you value our journalism, show us with your support.

 

About the Author