OHA’s longest-running trustee faces ethics hearing 2 weeks before election

‘You drag her through the mud. That is wrong and enough is enough.’

OHA’s longest-running trustee faces ethics hearing 2 weeks before election

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With less than two weeks to the general election, OHA’s longest-serving trustee is at the center of a state ethics hearing.

Rowena Akana is fighting a potential $50,000 fine.

On Wednesday, emotions boiled over outside the hearing room.

That’s where Akana’s daughter, Toni Nickens, confronted a vocal opponent of the trustee, Kaui Pratt.

“You drag her through the mud. That is wrong and enough is enough,” Nickens said.

Inside the contested case hearing, state ethics commissioners listened to former OHA Comptroller John Kim, who testified that Akana bullied a staffer who challenged an expense.

“What I do remember about the voicemail is that her (Akana) tone of communication was fairly aggressive," Kim said. “She (the staffer) was obviously intimidated. She was worried about it. She was worried about possible retaliation.”

Akana, though, said the allegations against her are retaliation.

“The real reason I’m being called under the carpet as my enemy sat back here, I’m the one who has been blowing the whistle,” Akana said.

She said the staff is retaliating against her for complaining about mismanagement.

The state Ethics Commission alleges Akana accepted more than $70,000 in legal help from heiress Abigail Kawananakoa, which the commission says may have violated gifts and fair treatment laws. Akana is also being accused of misusing her trustee allowance, but Akana says OHA staffers approved the expenses.

“I’ve been a trustee for a long time and people who know me know that I’m honest that I don’t do things like this,” said Akana, who is up for re-election in less than two weeks.

“This hearing was scheduled purposely before the election to in fact limit and handicap Trustee Akana and her ability to run,” said her attorney, Stephen Tannenbaum.

Akana has served on OHA for 28 years, longer than any other trustee."

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