Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee allowances slashed

HONOLULU — The $22,200 annual allowance each trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs receives was 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. Trustee Robert Lindsey was excused.

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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 of the state’s voters.

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

The audit froze allowance spending, which will be lifted because of Thursday’s vote. 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 an expense. And each trustee must post quarterly expenditure reports online.

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

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Food and beverages for thanking staff or for social events such as birthdays or retirement parties also are 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.

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