by Andrew Walden
Are development interests at the root of corruption within the Office of Hawaiian Affairs?
Running for reelection, OHA Trustee Keli’i Akina says, “OHA Needs a Watchdog.” And Akina is not just talk--he has an unmatched four-year record of exposing waste, fraud, and corruption within OHA.
Three of the 32 ‘Red Flags’ identified in Akina’s famous December, 2019, ‘Independent Audit’ of OHA deal directly with waste, fraud, and corruption in OHA Kaka'ako Makai planning contracts.
Akina’s opponent, Jason Keoni Souza, is a Realtor who supports selling the Ceded Lands “to corporations.” Souza tells Ka Wai Ola he wants OHA to “collaborate with the Building Trades.”
So it is no wonder that Souza, in a July 26, 2020 video, literally says, “we don’t need a watchdog.” Souza calls the independent audit of OHA was “a waste of money.” At the PBS Insights OHA Candidates Forum, Souza’s opinion was echoed by Trustees Chair Colette Machado who is facing a stiff Nov 2 challenge from Luana Alapa.
Crooks and cronies are taking notice.
Souza’s campaign committee is chaired by Michael Miske’s lawyer, Thomas Otake. Donors include Plasterers and Cement Masons Local 630 lobbyist Ikaika Anderson, Miske’s Teamster’s Union DRIVE Committee, Ironworkers for Better Government, former Inouye Chief of Staff Jennifer Sabas, KSBE Trustees Chair and golf course developer Micah Kane, Patrick Kobayashi, CEO of Kobayashi Group LLC, Robert McFarlane, the owner of Dura Constructors, and William Henry McClellan CEO of Pelatron, an 8A tied to ex-Senator Brickwood 'Buzzy' Galuteria and outgoing OHA Trustee Robert Lindsey.
OHA has been lobbying to upzone its Kaka'ako Makai properties to residential since 2014. HCDA and the Legislature have consistently refused the request. (pg 7)
As a Senator, Galuteria pushed a 2014 Kaka'ako Makai upzone bill while on the payroll of Pelatron. Galuteria was booted out of office in 2018 by Kaka'ako constituents who wanted someone to represent them, not developers.
But after 40 years under HCDA control, Kaka’ako Makai is set to be transferred back to City jurisdiction. Legislators are directing the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) to shift its focus to the Kapolei area. HCDA, January 14, 2020, sent Legislators a plan for the hand over of Kaka’ako authority.
Discussing the transfer at the January 10, 2020, OHA Resource Management (RM) Committee meeting, HCDA Executive Director Aedward Los Banos, who is also a former OHA COO, told Trustees: “Its going to be a challenge to the city….there is going to be a lot of work down the road, knowing that it’s not going to happen this year, uh, you do have a new mayor next year and five new council members, so there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty….”
Parallel to the developers’ attack on the Board of Trustees, two OHA-connected political operatives have made it onto the General Election ballot for Council:
Former DoI appointee Esther Kiaaina--District III, Windward
Aha delegate Jacob Aki--District VII, Kalihi-Salt Lake
Since acquiring Kaka'ako Makai in payment of Ceded Lands arrears in 2012, OHA has mostly used the properties as an excuse to shovel millions of dollars to politically connected insiders—as exposed in Akina’s independent audit report.
OHA CEO Sylvia Hussey’s report to Trustees at the February 19, 2020, RM meeting shows OHA has wasted $1,969,593.95 on ‘planning’ by the politically connected “WCIT” group since acquiring Kakaako Makai in 2012. Another $150K went to Group 70. In the end, WCIT could not complete its contract, in part because, according to Hussey’s Power Point, “OHA has not decided on what they want to do, so useful Design Guidelines cannot be established.”
The timeline is a litany of white collar make-work contracts which in the end produced nothing – except alleged kickbacks.
Highlights of OHA’s eight-years with WCIT include:
- 2014 “Legislature denies OHA’s residential use request.”
- 2016: OHA supplemental WCIT Contract (total contact value $2.925M)
- 2017: “OHA denied by HCDA to be EIS Accepting Authority” (Yes, OHA wants to oversee its own EIS.)
- 2018: “Master Plan Contract Expires (incomplete)”
- 2018: “Plans not finalized”
- 2018: “Design guidelines not completed”
- 2018: “EIS and SMA not completed”
- 2018: “Approx $1M of contract unspent”
- 2019: “Commercial property manager leaves”
But according to Hussey’s report, that’s all going to change now.
With no watchdog, what will developers make OHA do?
Hussey presented a “Proposed Land Use by Parcel” (pg 52)
- Lot A 4.394 ac.: “Will need to get a zoning variance for hotel.”
- Lot E 2.2 Ac.: “Dependent on transfer of regulatory authority from HCDA to City. Anticipate residential to be allowed.”
- Lots F/G 7.531 ac.: “Will need to get a zoning variance for hotel.”
- Lot I 3.256 ac.: “Potential sale to City for a sewer pump.”
- Lot L 5.266 ac.: “Dependent on termination of Next Steps (homeless) shelter lease.”
- Lots E, F, G and I have a 200’ height limit. OHA operatives have lobbied for 400’.
- The four-story AFES building on Lot E would be demolished for “OHA HQ/residential.”
Not mentioned in Hussey’s Plan: Relocating OHA HQ could make it possible for OHA to redevelop the Gentry Pacific site it acquired in 2012.
With all that money sloshing around, OHA needs a watchdog now more than ever.
July 26, 2020: Miske Lawyer Behind Campaign to Unseat OHA Trustee Keli’i Akina
August 9, 2020: OHA to Take Over Honolulu Council?
August 20, 2020: Megan Kau Hired by Miske – Will she be 3rd Prosecutor in a row to have a Miske Connection?