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Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee allowances slashed

May 7, 2019

HONOLULU (AP) — The $22,200 annual allowance each trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs receives has been slashed.

The office’s board of trustees voted 8-0 last week to cut the allowance to $7,200 and place other limits on the funds, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday. Trustee Robert Lindsey was excused.

The approval follows a 2018 state auditor report that was highly critical of the allowances. Rules governing the allowances are broad and lead to questionable spending, the report said.

The allowances were intended for incidental expenses related to a trustee’s official duties consistent with the public agency’s mission of improving the conditions of Native Hawaiians.

Nine trustees are elected in public elections open to all Hawaii voters.

Trustees receive an annual salary of $58,560. The chairperson’s salary is $66,768.

The board voted to impose a moratorium on allowance spending following the audit. Thursday’s vote lifts the freeze. Trustees will have access to the pared down allowances beginning in July.

Trustees will be required to pay for expenses with their own money and then receive reimbursement from their allowances. There will be an appeals process when the administration refuses to reimburse and expense. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs will post quarterly trustee expenditure reports online.

Allowances can’t be used for alcohol, political or charitable contributions, campaign activities, gifts, personal expenses and airline club memberships.

Food and beverages for thanking staff or for social events such as birthdays or retirement parties are also not allowed.

In February, former trustee Rowena Akana was fined $23,000 by the state Ethics Commission for 47 ethics violations, including unpermitted expenses. Akana’s attorney said she would appeal.

The new rules “implement meaningful changes to better fulfill our fiduciary duties and meet the needs of our beneficiaries,” said Chairwoman Colette Machado.

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This version clarifies that it was the board that implemented an allowance spending freeze and that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs will post trustee expenditure reports online.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com