Tempers flare as OHA grapples with accusations of mismanagement

Published: Jan. 27, 2017 at 12:39 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 27, 2017 at 2:33 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a dramatic moment Thursday, Native Hawaiian activist Bumpy Kanahele called for an investigation into OHA's finances, throwing a handful of salt onto the group's meeting table and suggesting the board invite federal authorities to examine its business its dealings.

"I no like nothing from you guys," Kanahele told the Office of Hawaiian Affairs' board of trustees. "I no owe you guys nothing, and I always did something for you folks. Please make that call. After you guys pau here, call the FBI."

Kanahele's plea came after several board members accused OHA chief executive Kamanao Crabbe of mismanaging the $600 million state agency. Those board members tried to remove him during Thursday's meeting, but fell several votes short.

"What I was suggesting is put him on administrative leave with full pay until we work out the details of his contract, to be fair to him, but they wouldn't have it," said OHA Chairwoman Rowena Akana.

Critics say OHA's administrative costs during Crabbe's tenure have more than doubled, to $50 million, while spending for Hawaiian programs hasn't kept pace.

"Your CEO has used thousands of dollars for international trips, staffers going to New Zealand for the Hokulea welcome party with a three-piece band," said Native Hawaiian activist Mililani Trask.

Crabbe, though, says the allegations are misleading.

"Our budget has increased because we've become a landowner in Kakaako Makai and we own this building (in Iwilei)," he said. "We not only have additional expenses for the work we do, but we also take in revenue.

"I think some of the statements that were shared today are very grossly inaccurate innuendos."

His supporters urged the board to keep him.

"To essentially get rid of him will undoubtedly be catastrophic and detrimental for our people in Hawaii for generations to come," said Punaluu resident Jamee Mahealani Miller.

Tempers sometimes flared during Thursday's OHA board meeting, which was attended by more than 50 people. At one point, Trask got into a heated exchange with Crabbe after she accused him of spending $500,000 on the World Conservation Congress in Waikiki last September.

Trask: "Your CEO last year gave a gift of half a million dollars to the IUCN global environmental conference so that he and a few others could become a master of ceremonies for a Hollywood-like opening event."

Crabbe: "That was voted by the board."

Trask: "This did not benefit our people."

Crabbe: "That was voted on by the board. That was voted on by the board."

Trask: "Excuse me, I'd like to finish, I would like to finish."

Crabbe: "That was voted by the board."

Many Hawaiians worry that the bickering is eroding the public's confidence in OHA.

"There's so much division in here, and our enemies look at us and say 'Yeah, keep doing that, keep being separated Hawaiians.' They like us do that. We got great enemies out there," said Kaukaohu Wahilani of Waianae.

The OHA board will meet again Monday.

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