October 9, 1997
By Jim Witty and Debra Barayuga
Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chairman Clayton Hee resigned his post this morning effective upon the selection of a new chair, likely next Tuesday.
Flanked by allies Rowena Akana and Abraham Aiona this morning, Hee outlined his accomplishments during his six-year tenure and urged the new leadership to successfully negotiate a settlement with the state following Judge Daniel Heely's ruling that OHA is entitled to additional compensation.
He declined to answer reporters' questions.
He will remain on the OHA board.
"I look to the new leadership to successfully accomplish the goal of negotiating with the state," he said. "Unless the new leadership embraces the concept of hiring experts, the board will breach it's fiduciary trust. We are not experts and we should be clear about that."
He said a successful settlement could boost OHA trust assets from around $300 million to $1.5 billion.
Hee, the longest serving OHA board chairman, called that accomplishment "somewhat remarkable given the personalities on the board."
Among his accomplishments, Hee cited shepherding trust assets from $19 million in 1991 to about $275 million today. He also called the purchase of the Henry Opukahaia School in Keaau on the Big Island for use as a Hawaiian immersion school "the crown jewel of OHA."
Hee also pointed to OHA's role in establishing the master of arts degree in Hawaiian language and literature, the only program of its kind, at University of Hawaii. In addition, Hee called the creation of a multimillion-dollar education foundation as "a panacea for many of our people's problems."
Hee's resignation comes less than three months before OHA was to negotiate a settlement with the state to resolve its dispute over ceded-land revenues.
Thirteen companies earlier this week gave presentations to the Board of Trustees, charged with putting together a consulting team to assist OHA in negotiations.
Hee, a former state senator, urged the Board of Trustees to come up with a list of finalists soon because the settlement talks begin in December, giving the agency little time to put together a top-notch negotiation team, he said.Hee oversaw OHA's rapid growth from $19 million in assets in 1990 to $245 million today.
He has served as OHA chairman since May 1991, overcoming a challenge from newcomer Haunani Apoliona in April when the OHA board voted 6-to-3 to re-elect him.
Following his re-election, he proposed that OHA find new ways to become economically autonomous if it is to achieve sovereignty for Hawaiians.
He suggested the state transfer land titles for Molokini Island between Kahoolawe and Maui, and Iolani Palace and Diamond Head to OHA as part of the upcoming settlement discussion over ceded land revenues.
OHA would have exclusive rights to charge user fees or seek joint venture partnerships to develop them, he said.
OHA could use these resources as a revenue base without hurting the state's struggling economy.
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