OHA trustees resign, all plan to seek re-election

HONOLULU – The Office of Hawaiian Affairs was left in limbo Friday after all

nine trustees resigned.

The state attorney general’s office said trustees

had to resign by 4:30 p.m. Friday, or Gov. Ben Cayetano by law could name

replacement trustees to serve out the terms of five trustees whose terms

wouldn’t have expired until November 2002.

The four other trustees had

terms expiring in November.

State elections officer Dwayne Yoshina said

resignations from all nine trustees were received by the deadline.

“They

resigned at various times throughout the day,” Yoshina said.

The decision

followed a day of meetings Thursday among the trustees and informal contacts

with Probate Judge Kevin Chang and with the governor’s office.

“The board

weighed the alternatives and the probable outcomes, not only from a legal point

of view, but from the point of view of the good of the Hawaiian community and

the good of the broader community,” OHA chairman Clayton Hee said.

“At the

end of the day the board decided, individually, to submit their

resignations.”

The governor went to court Tuesday to seek removal of the

trustees if they didn’t resign. The trustees decided to step down to avoid a

protracted legal fight, and to do what was in the best interests of the

Hawaiian people and the trust, Hee said.

“As trustees, we feel a duty to

resign to prevent prolonged legal wrangling and further opportunities for those

who are intent on dismantling native Hawaiian trust assets and entitlements,”

trustees Haunani Apoliona, Collette Machado and Donald Cataluna said in a joint

statement.

Cataluna was appointed by the governor and wasn’t subject to his

efforts to remove the other trustees.

“We must emphasize that the electoral

process is the only way to cure the pain and suffering,” he said.

Hee said

all nine intend to seek re-election, but trustee A. Frenchy DeSoto said

Thursday night she had no plans to run again.

“I’m 72 years old and I’m

tired,” DeSoto said. “I’d rather resign than get kicked out.”

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