OHA trustee says she'll fight ethics charges 'to the death'

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "I'm going to fight them to the death."

That's what Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Rowena Akana said Wednesday when asked how she'll respond to a state Ethics Commission investigation over alleged gifts and spending.

In a confidential Ethics Commission document leaked to the media, the state said Akana accepted more than $72,000  in legal fees paid to her attorney from Hawaiian heiress Abigail Kawananakoa. The money was given to Akana so she could defend herself in a lawsuit filed by other trustees. Akana said the legal fees were not a personal gift.

"I don't see anything wrong with that. It's not against the law," Akana said. "I haven't done anything that's against the law."

The commission said accepting the money may have violated a gifts and fair treatment law if "these gifts were due to Akana's status as an OHA trustee."

During Wednesday's OHA board meeting, a courier showed up to serve Akana with confidential documents from the state Ethics Commission, but Akana skipped the meeting and avoided him.

In addition to the legal fees, other spending of her allowance is coming into question, including her use of an OHA allowance for:

  • Political contributions, including $500 for a band at an event hosted by Kanaka Maoli, a political action committee;
  • Home cable TV and internet services;
  • A $249 Hawaiian Airlines Premier Club membership;
  • And food for parties for OHA personnel.

Akana said the spending is all above board, and that some of the charges are false.

For example, she said the Hawaiian Air membership didn't come from her allowance and that OHA approved all of her expenses.

She also blames OHA's CEO, Kamanaopono Crabbe, and her detractors for trying to take her down.

"This is a smear campaign. It definitely came from OHA," said Akana, referring to the leaked document.

"The Administration at OHA is doing everything they can to discredit me because I have been trying to clean house at OHA for two years," she added.

The Ethics Commission investigation comes as the FBI and Attorney General are investigating the agency.

Akana said that she knows of two other trustees who've reported to the Ethics Commission because of their expenditures.

OHA and the commission did not comment on the investigation.

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