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Information office: OHA Hawaiian Nation talks broke open meetings law

    Emerging from the doors of the board room of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs after an all-day session with CEO Kamana'opono Crabbe

KAILUA-KONA >>The Office of Hawaiian Affairs broke open-meeting laws in a dispute over whether or not the Hawaiian Nation exists, a state panel said.

CEO Kamanaopono Crabbe had sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking whether the Hawaiian Nation exists in the eyes of the federal government. But the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Board of Trustees then wrote a follow-up note to Kerry rescinding Crabbe’s letter.

The Office of Information Practices found the board’s decisions about the letters problematic because the board didn’t allow the public to comment before meeting privately to discuss Crabbe’s conduct, West Hawaii Today reported Friday. That meeting in May drew about 100 would-be testifiers who were asked to leave the room before a private meeting was held.

The panel also said board members made phone calls and sent emails to each other about the letters before holding a public meeting, violating the state Sunshine Law.

The opinion came in response to a complaint by six Hawaii residents.

In the Crabbe’s letter, he says the federal government has acknowledged that the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Hawaii Kingdom in 1893 was illegal. Crabbe said he’d attended sessions where political scholars opined that Hawaiians are not an indigenous people of the United States, but rather nationals of an occupied state.

The board’s follow-up letter was succinct: “The contents of that letter do not reflect the position of the Board of Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs or the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. That letter is hereby rescinded.”

But residents who filed the complaint saw it differently.

“OHA has to own up to that and send Dr. Crabbe and Secretary of State Kerry an apology,” said Nanci Munroe, one of the six who filed the complaint. “We want answers to the questions, and they’re trying to sweep it under the rug.”

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