News Release from Office of James Bickerton, Attorney
February 9, 2017
Abigail K. K. Kawananakoa, in her capacity as an Office of Hawaiian Affairs (“OHA”) trust beneficiary, a taxpayer and a concerned citizen, has this morning filed a lawsuit against OHA administrator Kamanao Crabbe, OHA Trustee Robert Lindsey and OHA seeking a ruling that the contract under which Crabbe purports to be working for OHA was signed by Lindsey without its terms being approved by the Board of OHA, in violation of statute and OHA’s bylaws. The suit was filed at 8:59 a.m. and a copy is attached.
Through her attorneys, Jim Bickerton and Bridget Morgan, Miss Kawananakoa released the following statement:
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, just like every governmental agency, must follow its own rules and state law.
The manner in which the executive director's contract was handled reflects at best indifference and at worst hostility to legal standards by OHA's former chair Robert Lindsey and its current attorney Robert G. Klein.
The trustees forfeit the confidence of their beneficiaries by making any issue one of self‐interest, personalities and alliances rather than just adhering to the law.
The status of the executive officer's contract is a legal question that a judge must decide. That is the correct place to resolve this egregious problem.
Jim Bickerton noted that: “The suit asks Crabbe and Lindsey to refund the monies paid out to Crabbe since his earlier contract expired in June 2016. It alleges that they breached their fiduciary duties by allowing OHA funds to be expended without a vote of the Board approving the contract terms.” While the Board had voted in August 2016 to give Crabbe a new contract, he rejected the terms the Board proposed. The suit alleges that Lindsey went ahead without Board approval to accept and sign the contract version that Crabbe proposed. The suit also alleges that no Board vote was ever taken on that version of the contract, which was materially different from what the Board had authorized.
The suit further alleges that the contract that Lindsey signed with Crabbe has no provisions permitting early termination without cause or limits on damages that OHA might have to pay if Crabbe is terminated, and requires that he cannot be terminated unless the parties first go through mediation and arbitration, attempting to thwart the Board’s statutory right to terminate the administrator by a Board vote. Bickerton said: “As with other suits we have been asked to file by Miss Kawananakoa, the guiding principle here is insistence that rules and laws be followed by our public officials. When they are not, public spirited citizens must do what they can to see that they are.”
PDF: Full Text of Lawsuit
HNN: Princess Kawananakoa sues OHA as board votes in new chair