Princess Kawananakoa sues OHA as board votes in new chair

Princess Kawananakoa sues OHA as board votes in new chair
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees used paper ballots and a calabash to select Colette Machado as the board's new chair Thursday, and pledged greater stability going forward.

But around the same time, Princess Abigail Kawananakoa announced she'd filed a lawsuit that claims embattled OHA CEO Kamanaopono Crabbe's new three-year contract is invalid.

"She's very concerned not about the result, but about the process," said Kawananakoa attorney Jim Bickerton.

The lawsuit names Crabbe and former OHA chairman Robert Lindsey, and argues the two breached their fiduciary duties and harmed OHA's beneficiaries by improperly extending Crabbe's contract in November.

"The contract that they were operating under for the administrator was never voted on by the board," Bickerton said. "The board approved a difference version of the contract. The chair then signed their own version."

Crabbe and Lindsey did not respond directly to the allegations.

"We look forward to really dismissing and defending OHA's position," Crabbe said.

Lindsey added, "The way I see it, it's just another bump in the road."

Machado is taking over the board just days after former Chairwoman Rowena Akana was ousted.

Akana, the longest-tenured member of the board and an OHA at-large trustee since 1990, lost her leadership role Thursday in a 5-to-1 vote, with three board members abstaining.

Machado said of Kawananakoa's lawsuit Thursday that she believes "the princess has the ear of Trustee Akana because her lawsuit is huge."

Recent OHA board meetings have been subject to infighting, with many of the conflicts a result of internal leadership struggles. In previous board meetings, Akana had sought to make OHA's finances more transparent, but she often clashed with fellow board and staff members.

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