HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Trustees with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs met for hours behind closed doors Monday to discuss the fate of CEO Dr. Kamana'opono Crabbe. There was concern from Dr. Crabbe's supporters, dozens of whom gathered outside the OHA boardroom, that he would be fired and the longer trustees stayed in executive session the more anxious the crowd grew. But just before 6 p.m., Dr. Crabbe and the Board of Trustees emerged united to say they were moving forward together.
Dr. Crabbe ignited an internal dispute that has since sparked a public debate after he sent an official inquiry to the state department asking for a legal opinion on whether the Kingdom of Hawaii still exists.
When OHA's nine trustees learned of the letter -- they sent a letter of their own rescinding the request. Two trustees later changed their mind and now support Dr. Crabbe's inquiry.
"In our discussions today, the board and I do agree that there's merit to the questions that were brought up in the letter. We have agreed to move forward with our community. I believe the board will be conducting a meeting on March 29 to hear feedback from our community regarding our nation building process. The board has agreed that we recognize the illegal overthrow of our Hawaiian Kingdom and how to best seek clarification of that status as we move forward," said Dr. Crabbe.
Questions have been raised about whether Dr. Crabbe had the authority to request a legal written opinion without first obtaining board approval.
Several complaints have also been filed with the Office of Information Practices challenging the trustees letter to rescind Dr. Crabbe's inquiry citing it may have violated the state's sunshine law -- which prohibits board members from voting on an action without first calling a public meeting.
Officials say all legal challenges are still under review.
Dozens of Dr. Crabbe's supporters showed up to rally for the CEO, but their attempts to sign up for public testimony were turned down as Monday's meeting was scheduled specifically as an "executive session" to consult with board counsel Robert Klein about Dr. Crabbe's conduct and to discuss appropriate action.
"It was a really gut-wrenching discussion. I think we attempted to look at the overarching issues here and not to pinpoint a particular blame on one individual. I believe the message I would like to send to all our lahui is that if OHA can repair and move forward, examine our responsibilities both at the board of trustee level and at the administrative level, and see a common, unified effort to move forward, I truly believe that we will move forward with the building of our Native Hawaiian entity. That will never change," said Chair Colette Machado.
"At the time of the discussion, we had no idea that the level of hurt was so deep that we had to take it layer by layer, and I'm so proud that we had that opportunity today with Dr. Kamana'o Crabbe in ho'oponopono and there is a unifying effort to moving forward. Once we were able to release one another from our past transgressions and all of the pilikia that may have been caused either by intention or in addition to something that came through the side door. So to me I am blessed to have had that opportunity today and then we'll be moving forward, but looking seriously at some modifications or changes to the previous policy on building the Native Hawaiian entity," Machado said.
OHA has decided to hold a public meeting on May 29 for community feedback on how to best move forward with nation-building.