OHA Allowances

Helping beneficiaries versus buying influence

I appreciated your publishing Anita Hofschneider’s article regarding Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees’ annual allowances (“How OHA Trustees Spent Their Allowances,” Oct. 17).

I would like to provide some insight as to why I recommended discontinuing the practice of individual trustees giving OHA funds directly to have individuals and organizations.

First, such giving can influence voters and buy their favor. This poses a significant ethical problem in that trustees can potentially buy campaign support with these funds, and is the main reason I have refused to use the trustee allowance since beginning my term in 2016.

At the time of this writing, I have returned to OHA a total of $44,000 ($22,000 per year that I have been in office).

I do, however, affirm the use of trustee allowance funds to facilitate and maintain communication with OHA’s Native Hawaiian beneficiaries and the public.

In light of the role of trustees as elected officials, and the importance of communications in that role, I believe it is important to draw a distinction. I believe the use of allowance funds to carry out the duty of a trustee to raise awareness and broaden understanding of Hawaiian issues is appropriate. In contrast, the ethically questionable practice of giving funds in potential exchange for campaign support is what I take issue with.

Thank you again for shining a light on the trustee allowances.

— Kelii Akina, OHA Trustee, Honolulu

Trustees working on new policy

In reference to a recent article in Honolulu Civil Beat that explained the $7,200 reverted cap of the Trustee Protocol Allowance for the OHA Trustees, I wanted to provide some other facts that Civil Beat and its readers may be interested to note:

  • Following up and through a 2001 Action Item that OHA tried to pass, the proposed TPA outlines that trustees will receive TPA funds on a reimbursable basis. This will align with the suggestions made by the Hawaii State Auditor in the last two decades. Furthermore, OHA’s TPA will model the Legislature’s Legislative Allowance and the Honolulu City Council’s Annual Contingency Allowance where members do not receive up-front disbursements. Rather, members receive reimbursements when their expenditures are compliant to policy.
  • The new TPA Policy addresses all of the Hawaii State Auditor’s recommendations in its Report No. 18-03, released in February 2018, regarding trustee allowance.
  • In good faith, OHA shared the TPA Draft Policy with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission so that the commission could review the draft policy, prior to any initial and full OHA Board discussion.
  • In stated fact within a response letter received by OHA, Hawaii State Ethics Commission, Daniel Gluck, executive director and general counsel:
    • Thanked OHA for providing the Ethics Commission with the opportunity to provide feedback on the draft policy. This he mentioned twice.
    • Sincerely appreciated OHA’s efforts to promote the highest ethical standards within OHA, also mentioned twice.
    • Representing the full Ethics Commission, was grateful for the opportunity to work with OHA in this draft policy project.

Mahalo for your valuable time as we provide more facts to heighten the awareness of this newly proposed OHA TPA policy.

— John D. Waihee IV, OHA Trustee, Honolulu

The ConCon Question

Columnist unpersuasive in election arguments

Danny De Gracia’s column supported the ConCon with unconvincing arguments (“Danny De Gracia: This Election Doesn’t Have To Be Business As Usual,” Oct. 22)

He imputes a childish attitude to those who oppose the ConCon with untestable speculation (“If that’s true, then why …”).

The state constitution is not a secret document; if it needs review and rehabilitation, then specific suggestions for change could be made and vetted ahead of time, giving voters reasons to vote thoughtfully. “Trust us. We’ll do the right thing” isn’t enough assurance for many of us.

The article lauds “a multiplicity of views.”

But decisions of what to present to voters for ratification from a ConCon are made by a small number of conventioneers, not by voters. Problems mentioned (economic bust following economic boon, high personal debt, education funding, etc.) are problems that should be dealt with by the Legislature.

The fact that legislators are not brave enough to raise taxes to the extent necessary to fund important programs does not itself justify a ConCon. The column makes no suggestions as to what a ConCon might produce that could not be satisfactorily handled under the present constitution.

— John M. Flanigan, Kaneohe

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