As the chief operating officer of Hiilei Aloha LLC, I have a responsibility to speak up. Enough is enough.

Anita Hofschneider’s articles about the Office of Hawaiian Affairs needing to demand financial details from its own limited liability companies are clearly one-sided. Whoever leaked a copy of the State Auditor’s draft report to her, and I suspect it was a trustee, has told her only certain trustees’ version of what is going on at OHA.

The LLCs have never refused to provide pertinent information in preparation for this new “forensic” audit that certain trustees are demanding. What the LLCs took issue with is that one trustee dismissed all members of the audit committee from a meeting with the proposed auditor, Ernst & Young.

She spoke confidentially with Ernst & Young, and, after that meeting, demanded that the LLCs’ check registers and any other requested information be provided to her personally, and she would give it to the proposed auditors, Ernst & Young. In other words, this trustee, who is a politician, would be a gatekeeper for which information would be given to Ernst & Young. She could similarly withhold information or “color” information as she chooses.

OHA Trustee meeting held at their offices.

The OHA Board of Trustees met Feb. 7 and talked about the agency’s LLCs and a state audit draft on OHA.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The claimed purpose of this request for the check registers is to help Ernst & Young decide what its quote would be to conduct the audit. However, check registers are not required to provide a quote. All that is needed is to ask how many transactions there are within certain dollar ranges. 

The LLCs have always said they would provide necessary information to the auditor. We are not in favor of politicizing the audit process by providing it to a single trustee, who would likely share it with another particular trustee, whose staff would send it to a certain “fake news” online source that likes to criticize OHA and attack people’s personal reputations.

To write a headline and story that poor trustees have to demand information from their own companies is completely inaccurate. How about writing a story about how certain trustees are politicizing everything at OHA, attacking the CEO and other certain staff, and causing disarray?

Hold The Trustees Responsible

Much of what has surfaced in the news about OHA this past year is about poor trustee behavior on the part of certain trustees. That is where the problem lies.

Trustees are provided hard copies of each annual audit. As nonprofits, the LLCs file IRS Form 990 tax returns every year, which become public information and can be found on public websites.

Randy Roth’s analogy to Kamehameha Schools that Hofschneider quotes is ironic. The problem is not the staff, as Roth seems to imply, but the other way around. It is certain trustees who are creating problems, just like the Kamehameha debacle. Several trustees are engaging in abuse of discretion and insidious undermining of Native Hawaiian rights.

What should be the bigger story about OHA is that, due to certain trustees, we are now in a fight for the Native Hawaiian trust and Native Hawaiian programs. That is what is underlying certain trustee behavior at OHA this past year. It is an attack on Native Hawaiians and the uniqueness of Hawaii.

The State Auditor recently stated in its draft audit that OHA wastes money. The tone of Civil Beat’s article and choice of photo implied it was the CEO who wastes money.

Much of what has surfaced in the news about OHA this past year is about poor trustee behavior on the part of certain trustees. That is where the problem lies.

Think again. Trustees approve all expenditures, except those for which the CEO has discretion. Certain trustees have approved expenditures for their favorite charities and friends, some of which truly need to be audited. Don’t blame the staff. Blame the body where the buck stops.

This current, duplicative audit that certain trustees have demanded will cost OHA at least $500,000. That is another half-million dollars that will be wasted for political purposes. I venture to say they will be disappointed in the end because there is no waste, fraud or mismanagement going on in the LLCs. We are tightly run ships that survive with minimal staff and minimal funding.

In the next few weeks, I and several other people who care about OHA and its commendable accomplishments over the past 30 years to help Native Hawaiians will be launching a website to share truthful information and set the record straight. We will reach out into the community. We invite you to join us.

I hope everyone in Hawaii will hear and read about what is going on at OHA and help us to elect good, honest people come this November’s election.

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