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Ethics Commission Confirms OHA Trustee Spending Violations

Catherine Cruz/Hawaii Public Radio

Questionable spending by trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is back in the news. The state Ethics Commission confirmed Thursday that several trustees have been asked in recent years to repay the state for their use of agency funds.

Daniel Gluck, head of the state Ethics Commission, said the commission has taken action against four OHA trustees for rule violations that occured prior to 2017.

They include two current OHA trustees whom he did not name, and two former trustees, Rowena Akana and Peter Apo.

Gluck could not immediately say how much OHA trustees were ordered to repay. But he did say they occurred before a 2018 state audit of OHA that blasted the state agency for its weak policies on trustee allowances.

Akana is suing the Ethics Commission over allegations that the commission selectively targeted her, saying other trustees have done worse.

Earlier this year, Akana was fined $23,000 by the commission for nearly 50 ethics violations, including spending trustee allowances for personal use.  

Akana’s lawyer, Stephen Tannebaum, said he’s found dozens of improper expenditures by other trustees in allowance reports. He subpoenaed the documents as part of Akana’s lawsuit.

Gluck has previously said Akana’s allegations had “no merit.”

Since the audit, OHA trustees have overhauled their allowance rules.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at
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