Office of Hawaiian Affairs is Suing State Auditor -- OHA Trustee Keli‘i Akina Says Enough is Enough
News Release from Office of OHA Trustee Keli'i Akina, PhD, Feb 17, 2020
Honolulu, HI – Trustee Keli‘i Akina has had enough with OHA’s refusal to cooperate with State Auditor Les Kondo, which has resulted in the withholding of over $3 million in general funds for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The funds were previously approved by the Legislature but conditioned on the completion of the State Auditor’s examination of OHA’s limited liability companies (LLCs) pursuant to Act 37 as signed into law in 2019.
“Funding that could be used for grants, programs, and community events for and by our Hawaiian beneficiaries is at risk, making this issue a clear one for me,” Trustee Akina says. “OHA should have given the State Auditor the requested documents, which would have allowed the audit to be completed. If OHA had taken that course of action, this lawsuit would not be necessary.”
“If OHA has nothing to hide, it should be willing to open its records to the state auditor,” Trustee Akina added.
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OHA asks court to determine whether Trustees must turnover attorney-client privileged information to the State Auditor
Editor's Note: Every assertion in this news release has already been debunked HERE >>> Crooks Cry Racism: Debunking OHA’s Audit Excuses
News Release from OHA, February 14, 2020
HONOLULU (February 14, 2020) – OHA filed a complaint today asking the First Circuit Court for a declaratory judgment on whether trustees must provide the State Auditor with attorney-client privileged information, with the hope that a court decision will help clear the way for the completion of the suspended state audit of OHA, which would result in the release of the agency’s $3 million general fund appropriation for next fiscal year.
“Today’s legal action is intended to facilitate the completion of the state audit of OHA so the state can release $3 million to benefit those Native Hawaiians most in need,” said OHA Chair Colette Machado. “OHA wants this audit finished so our beneficiaries can receive these critical resources. After weeks of discussions with the auditor, the trustees felt that asking the court to intervene was our only recourse.”
OHA Board Counsel Robert Klein said:
“The state auditor is using an unprecedented interpretation of his powers to demand attorney-client privileged information that is protected by the law,” said Klein, a former Hawaiʻi Supreme Court Justice. “Rather than subpoenaing OHA, which would result in a court reviewing his interpretation of his audit powers, the State Auditor has decided to suspend his legislatively-mandated audit and placed significant Native Hawaiian funds in jeopardy. We believe today’s action will resolve this legal dispute so these monies can be released.”
Last year, the Legislature passed a law that conditioned the release of OHA’s $3 million in general funds for fiscal year 2021 on the state auditor’s completion of a new audit of OHA. Shortly thereafter, Hawaiʻi State Auditor Les Kondo informed OHA that he would be auditing the limited liability companies (LLCs) associated with OHA and requested 26 categories of information.
OHA and its associated LLCs fully cooperated with the state auditor, providing him with 937 documents, totaling many thousands of pages, within weeks of receiving his requests. OHA submitted all documents requested, including the minutes of 21 executive session Board meetings that included redactions to shield privileged legal advice, which is protected from disclosure by state law.
On December 30, Mr. Kondo proclaimed that he was suspending the audit indefinitely until OHA provides him with the unredacted meeting minutes.
OHA Chief Executive Officer Sylvia Hussey said that OHA and the LLCs have been responsive to all of the information requested by the State Auditor.
“The documents and information the State Auditor requested were turned over, in the majority of instances, within the one-week response deadline,” said OHA CEO Hussey. “Any questions about specific financial transactions of the LLCs can be answered in the documents already submitted to Mr. Kondo’s office, including contract and grant lists, check registers and meeting minutes of the LLC managers, none of which were redacted.”
Chair Machado said that OHA just wants to be treated fairly and move forward. She noted that auditor completed its audit of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), despite HART only providing redacted executive meeting minutes.
“This whole situation is unfortunate,” she said. “We believe that today’s action will help us holomua.”
HNN: OHA’s argument to withhold documents from state auditor goes to court
SA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs sues state auditor with $3M in limbo -- “Kondo said the law is on his side and that unfortunately, taking the issue to court could just end up prolonging the dispute even further and costing a lot of money.”
Jan 5, 2020: OHA Sacrifices $3.2M to Hide Lawyer’s Conflict of Interest?
Jan 8, 2020: Crooks Cry Racism: Debunking OHA’s Audit Excuses