Office of Hawaiian Affairs critic wins right to rebut accusations
Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Kelii Akina, accused of making misleading and untrue statements, will get the chance to defend himself.
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Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Kelii Akina, accused of making misleading and untrue statements, will
get the chance to defend himself.
The OHA Board of Trustees voted Thursday to
extend the work of a committee that was investigating Akina for violating the board’s code of conduct in criticizing trustees for
delaying an independent audit being conducted about OHA.
The special Permitted
Interaction Group concluded Nov. 6 that although Akina did indeed make misleading and untrue statements in violation of the code, the board has no
recourse for disciplinary action, and it considered the matter closed.
At Thursday’s board meeting, however, Akina said he was being treated unfairly, having never been told about what specific statements of his were
untrue and not given a chance to defend himself.
Akina called the reference to misleading and
untrue statements “a very serious allegation.”
“It doesn’t merely say that I had a different opinion about the (CliftonLarsonAllen LLP) audit, or different belief, or that I criticized the board. It declares that I have committed wrongdoing,” Akina said.
“My fellow trustees, this is not how we should treat each other,” he said.
Akina proposed striking the sentence referring to the “misleading and untrue statements” from the committee’s final report.
Instead, the trustees ended up voting to discuss their options in closed
session before emerging to table the report and reestablish the committee.
Akina abstained from the vote to reinstate the panel, saying later he was unsure immediately what to make of it.
“It’s no secret I’ve spoken out about my concerns about the progress of the independent audit of OHA. And now it seems I’m
under attack for making statements that are now being investigated as being the basis for disloyalty,” Akina told reporters
“But a public official needs to speak his mind
on behalf of his constituents and beneficiaries,
and that’s what I’m going to continue to do,” he
After the meeting, OHA Chairwoman Colette
Machado said a majority
of trustees wanted to give Akina a chance to defend himself.
The four-trustee panel felt hamstrung in that
regard because the state’s Sunshine Law prohibits more than four trustees from meeting in a Permitted Interaction Group
But Machado said OHA received an opinion from the state Office of Information Practices saying it was OK to allow a fifth trustee to appear before the committee, as long as that trustee is the subject of the investigation.
The board’s code of conduct outlines standards of behavior and is designed to help the nine trustees function as a “collegial unit” and to “speak with one voice.” It requires trustees to support a decision once it is made by the board.
In an April 10 news release issued by Akina,
he lashed out at his colleagues after he was the lone dissenter in a vote
to extend the audit contract deadline to December 2019 — seven months
after the original deadline for completion of the
“It is very troubling that the OHA Board of Trustees has taken a step backward for transparency and accountability,” Akina wrote in the release.
“Some of the comments he made hit us hard,” Machado said Thursday. Other board members said they felt unjustly accused as well.
During public testimony, retired University of Hawaii law professor Randy Roth told the board he believes the code of conduct policy violates Akina’s free speech rights.
Roth called a rule that forbids members from speaking out “bad policy” that reduces transparency and accountability.