A FEARLESS WAHINE WHO WILL ASK THE TOUGH QUESTIONS OF OHA
In this crazy election season, there is something in the air that tells me the good ol’ boys are rattled, and maybe just a little bit afraid. Afraid of being held accountable by strong women. Afraid of being challenged on their dereliction of duty and their conduct.
Here in Hawaii, there are some who are afraid of not having good answers for the questions that must be asked about their stewardship of the people’s assets that have been entrusted to the care of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Those questions will be asked if voters elect Mililani Trask to represent Hawaii Island on the OHA Board of Trustees.
Judging by the wild accusations on radio and in print, the good ol’ boys seem to be circling the wagons. They do not want to face the scrutiny of fearless wahine like Trask.
I have known Mililani Trask for decades. All my life, I have seen her fight for transparency, accountability and justice. Whether she was at the United Nations helping to draft the Declaration of Indigenous Rights or learning from Mother Theresa in Calcutta, she has always put people before profits.
That is why she made public her findings that, based on the 2015 PKF Pacific Hawaii OHA fiscal review, trustees were violating their fiscal policy and would bankrupt the trust in 10 years.
Robert Lindsey Jr. and Oz Stender controlled the powerful OHA Assets Resource Committee for over a decade. During that time they disbanded the Trustee Budget & Finance Committee and did away with the office line item budget making it impossible for beneficiaries and the public to track millions of dollars being spent by OHA, Lindsey and some OHA executive staff for questionable perks.
These expenditures include international travel to attend the Hokulea Welcoming Party in New Zealand, the Pacific Festival in New Zealand and the week-long festivities celebrating Cook Island independence.
More recently, Hawaiians learned that Lindsey had supported a $500,000 “gift” to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Conservation Conference held in Hawaii in September.
During the tenure of Lindsey and Stender the OHA budget exploded to over $40 million per year with less than $8 million allocated for beneficiary services.
Trask is asking for a forensic accounting of the millions spent that did not address critical beneficiary needs for housing, homelessness, education, job training and health.
Lindsey Re-Writing History
In recent radio ads and media commentaries, Lindsey and his surrogates have gone so far as to accuse Trask of obtaining funds for “her company” to undertake geothermal development on Hawaii Island. Lindsey knows better. He said as much in op/eds in which he commended Huena Power, the only native Hawaiian company to bid on the HELCO RFP for a 50 megawatt geothermal plant on Hawaii Island.
Trask has no stake in Huena Power. She is a consultant to them on indigenous affairs and she helped them develop a Community Benefit Model for geothermal development that put the community first.
Among other things, Lindsey said, “My fellow Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees and I have been impressed with what one Native Hawaiian company, Innovations Development Group, has done to prepare to develop geothermal in a clean, sustainable way. …By taking a stake in Huena Power, the development arm of IDG, a super-majority of OHA trustees chose to give our beneficiaries a seat at the table in shaping their energy future.”
The changes HELCO repeatedly made through the tortuous bid process and its arbitrary decisions on pricing resulted in Huena Power not getting selected for the project. It is worth noting that the company selected for the project has since withdrawn its proposal and ended negotiations with HELCO.
It’s a matter of public record that OHA “hired outside consultants to evaluate a possible investment and based on it, decided to invest in the consortium for the bid to win the HELCO contract.”
The fear of losing his seat on the OHA Board of Trustees is driving Lindsey to rewrite history to absolve himself from responsibility. It will not work. Not if voters are alert to his attempts to pull the wool over their eyes.
Accountability goes hand in hand with being an elected official with trust and fiduciary responsibilities. Given the current threat to the Hawaiian Trust, it is past time to demand accountability from Lindsey and the OHA Board. Mililani Trask is asking voters to elect her so she can do exactly that.