by OHA Trustee Rowena Akana, Ka Wai Ola, October, 2016
`Ano`ai kakou… This could be the last time you read any hard truths about OHA in my columns. On August 24th, the BAE Committee and OHA’s CEO proposed a new policy called “One Voice, One Message,” which requires that all external communications be submitted to the CEO for review and approval prior to execution or engagement.
If this policy is approved, Trustees will no longer be able to publically voice their opposition to any board decision without facing severe sanctions for speaking out against the majority. So if five Trustees vote to approve a position, the remaining four Trustees will be forced to go along with the majority.
While it should be forehead slapping obvious why this is a terrible idea, allow me to list some of the reasons why:
- WE ARE A DEMOCRACY. The First Amendment guarantees we can express our opinions. Beneficiaries and voters who put us in office demand it. Only petty Dictators in third world countries gag dissent. First world democracies allow full and free discussions to take place. Just imagine if Democrats had tried to gag Republicans after Obama Care was passed. They wouldn’t stand for it!
- WHY IS A PR FIRM WRITING OHA POLICY? – The proposed “One Voice, One Message” policy was prepared by Neal Yokota, President and CEO of Stryker Wiener & Yokota Public Relations, Inc. OHA policy must always be written in-house with the input and review of OHA attorneys.
- TRUSTEES ARE REQUIRED BY LAW TO VOICE THEIR DISSENT.According to The Uniform Custodial Trust Act (HRS §554A-6), if we don’t express our dissent in writing before a vote is taken, we will be liable for the illegal or negative actions taken by the majority.
- THE POLICY IS SHORT SIGHTED. Future Trustees could use “One Voice, One Message” to stifle dissent while they funnel millions in Trust dollars (grants, contracts, high-paying positions, leases) to their family and friends.
- WHISTLE BLOWERS. “One Voice, One Message” conflicts with HRS 378-62, which protects employees who report violations of law by their employers.
- THE MAJORITY IS NOT ALWAYS RIGHT. If you had a vote on the mainland, I am sure that the majority would vote to outlaw interracial marriage. Does that mean dissenters should just go along with the majority? Hell no! Wrong is wrong no matter what the majority says.
- IT’S MISLEADING. “One Voice, One Message” sounds like Orwellian doublethink. It’s not about unity at all; it’s really about eliminating all dissenters, whether they are OHA Trustees or employees.
It’s clear this is all part of a greater scheme by the Board Chair and the CEO. They recently passed another policy on sanctioning Trustees who go against any OHA policy. Now it’s painfully obvious they did that to give serious teeth to this new policy gagging dissenters. “One Voice, One Message” is the final piece they need to empower the CEO at the expense of the Board of Trustees.
Thankfully, due to controversy, the proposal was deferred to the next BAE meeting. I will continue to strongly oppose it and I pray my fellow Trustees won’t go along with such foolishness.