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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Effort to oust OHA head may fall short

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

With just hours to go before a critical meeting today, Haunani Apoliona said she thinks Clayton Hee's effort to replace her as head of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs may be falling apart.

Apoliona, the former Alu Like service organization leader who has chaired the OHA board for nine months, said last night that Hee may have three or even four votes but that trustee Linda Dela Cruz "is keeping an open mind."

Dela Cruz last week joined trustees Hee, Rowena Akana, Charles Ota and John Waihee IV in calling for a meeting at 10 a.m. today to consider reorganization.

Apoliona said Akana and Ota are "joined at the hip" to Hee, but will need two more votes to remove her as chair. She said she had not talked to Waihee since the filing of the reorganization request, but that she had had some discussions with Dela Cruz.

Waihee and Dela Cruz joined trustees Collette Machado, Donald Cataluna and Oswald Stender to install Apoliona as the chair after she was elected to her second term as an OHA trustee last year with 58,000 votes, defeating 21 other candidates for her at-large position.

Hee, a former state legislator who represents O'ahu on the nine-member OHA board and was himself ousted as chairman by Apoliona, could not be reached yesterday.

But his long-time ally Akana said Apoliona must be replaced because "she really lacks leadership qualities. In these times of crisis, the whole office needs to gear up to withstand these attacks on the Hawaiian people."

Akana was talking about the U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing non-Hawaiians to run for and vote for OHA trustee positions, and the State Supreme Court decision this month striking down a law that gave the OHA rights to some revenues from ceded royal lands.

Akana said both she and Hee have the background and the drive necessary to deal with federal recognition of a Hawaiian nation, and to ask the state Legislature for a new law restoring the OHA rights stripped by state judges for technical reasons.

If she is ousted, Apoliona said, OHA "will be a political football" being kicked around to promote Hee's candidacy for lieutenant governor, and to cut back Hawaiian programs.

During her 275 days of leadership, she said, OHA has intervened successfully in lawsuits to protect Hawaiian programs, has tightened fiscal controls while continuing spending for Hawaiians, and has nearly completed a strategic plan to meet repeated criticism by the legislative auditor.