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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Chairwoman 'appalled' at OHA lawyer's firing

By Yasmin Anwar
Advertiser Staff Writer

More turmoil rippled through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs yesterday in the wake of Friday's firing of the agency's well-liked procurement and contracts lawyer.

Randall Ogata fired OHAâs contracts lawyer.

Advertiser library photo

OHA administrator Randall Ogata, whose contract expires June 30, announced yesterday that he had fired Ernest Kimoto.

"He just doesn't like me," Kimoto said.

Kimoto, a lawyer and Vietnam War veteran who has worked at the agency since 1996, has been a key adviser to OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona, and has, at times, challenged Ogata's policies involving grants and procurement contracts.

Ogata did not say why he had fired Kimoto. OHA spokesman Ryan Mielke said such personnel matters are confidential.

As he was clearing out his belongings yesterday, Kimoto said Ogata had accused him of being "surly and insubordinate" but had not yet sent him an official letter of termination.

In a confidential memo to Ogata, Apoliona said she was "appalled at the at-will termination action and the insensitive handling of Kimoto."

Over the strong objections of Ogata and his deputy, Colin Kippen, she took custody of Kimoto's files, saying she holds a legal obligation to inventory and protect the files as the agency's chief procurement officer.

Her office also disbursed a questionnaire yesterday asking staff to rate Ogata's performance.

Ogata's chief supporters on the board — Clayton Hee, Rowena Akana and Charles Ota — want to renew the administrator's contract.

But Ogata's critics on the board want the contract to go out for bid and are hoping the survey will provide a better gauge of the staff's confidence in the administrator.