×

Maui testifiers tell OHA to stop in-fighting

Native Hawaiian panel holds meetings on island

WAILUKU — Several Maui residents Thursday expressed support for the embattled Office of Hawaiian Affairs chief executive officer, whose performance is being evaluated following a scathing state audit over use of funds.

At a meeting in March, the OHA board discussed CEO Kamana’opono Crabbe’s performance but no action was taken. Debate over whether Crabbe should be ousted has been going on before the state audit released earlier this year that showed OHA spent $14 million in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 on discretionary projects versus $7.7 million on competitive grants.

The discretionary spending included $1,900 to send an individual to a rodeo competition in Las Vegas and $1,000 for a beneficiaries’ funeral-related clothing expenses.

OHA Chairwoman Colette Machado of Molokai has defended the discretionary spending, saying the money went to meeting the needs of beneficiaries. The competitive bidding process may not apply due to time constraints and the unique needs of Native Hawaiians.

At OHA’s Board meeting on Maui on Thursday, members of the community expressed their support for Crabbe. Some told the board to stop the infighting and the debate on the fitness of Crabbe. Although testifiers did not delve into details, they say Crabbe is working to help the Hawaiian people.

Ke’eaumoku Kapu said he supports Crabbe “100 percent” and told the board to “stop being cry babies” because some “people didn’t get what they want.”

Kapu reminded the board of how Crabbe brought home makamae or precious objects or treasures of Hawaiian significance from other countries. Kapu felt that was important.

“He’s a good CEO,” he added.

Clifford Alakai gave thanks to both Machado and Crabbe for their work.

“I hope the trustees continue to support him (Crabbe) because I know he is doing good for the people.”

Alakai added that most Hawaiians he sees around town are “going to say he’s (Crabbe’s) a good person, and he really means well for OHA.”

Alakai said he understands that it is difficult to run an organization such as OHA, where there are people coming from different areas and directions. He reads the OHA monthly tabloid and Crabbe’s writings and believes Crabbe is doing the right things for OHA.

“You guys need to work together and think about what you guys write,” he told the trustees. “Write things for the positive instead of the negative.”

Kyle Nakanelua asked the board to forgive any transgressions, “so this board, this aha and all of its staff can move forward and continue to do the work, which is really in the best interest of our people.”

OHA is always “taking hits” for not being able to get along, he added.

“Let’s quell all of that rubbish, again please let’s forgive each other, let’s all move on,” Nakanelua said.

During the introduction and statements of trustees, Machado told the audience that even though the audit is under review, OHA has “always done due diligence” and “always done the right thing to provide for the people.”

This means the organization will do its best to help those affected by floods on Kauai and the eruption of Kilauea on Hawaii island.

“When it comes to help for a crisis, you can depend on your elected trustees to do the best,” Machado said.

Trustee Rowena Akana recognized that OHA was “dinged up quite a bit” in the audit, especially on its use of its reserve funds. She disagrees with those criticisms.

Akana pointed out that money from the reserve fund was used for infrastructure repairs to Lunalilo Home on Oahu. According to OHA, $597,468 was used to support the alii trust by funding the much needed repairs to provide safety and comfort for elderly residents.

Akana said the board has discussed how to change its policies on how to handle these types of issues without the auditor or others criticizing its spending habits.

The meeting was held at the Lili’uokalani Trust Col. David M. Peters Building annex in Wailuku. An OHA community meeting was held Wednesday evening at Kamehameha Schools Maui.

* The Associated Press contributed to this report. Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.