`Aha Kiole Committee Tramples Over Public Process in Selecting Contractor

posted in: March 2008 | 0

This article has been corrected. In the original story, Environment Hawai`i printed a misstatement that `aha kiole meetings had been held in O`ahu’s Ko`olaupoko district.

For more than a year, environmental and native Hawaiian activists have accused the Ho`ohanohano I Na Kupuna Puwalu series – bankrolled largely by the federal Western Pacific Fishery Management Council – of being a front for the council’s efforts to influence state policy.

The Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs (AOHCC), however, which helped organize the five puwalu (meetings) throughout 2006 and 2007, has disputed such accusations. Association representatives have stated in news reports that although its ocean resources committee chair, Leimana DaMate, was hired by the council to organize the puwalu, the idea to bring together traditional Hawaiian farmers and fishermen from around the state to discuss the management of the state’s resources originated with the association.

Whatever the motivating force behind the puwalu, the series of meetings eventually led to state legislation and to the signing last year of Act 212. The purpose of the act is to start the process of creating an `aha moku (island) council system to foster “best practices” based on regional resources and indigenous management methods. To help the Legislature carry out that purpose, the act provided for establishment of an `aha kiole advisory committee, a group of eight island representatives that was to be selected by Governor Lingle from a list of nominees provided by the AOHCC.

In the months since Lingle signed Act 212, even though the committee has yet to receive a penny of its $220,000 two-year appropriation, it has managed to flout public procedures and confuse both the public and itself over what the act actually says.

More than one month before Lingle even appointed the `aha kiole advisory committee members, DaMate was requesting funds to start the committee’s work and sending draft budget documents, which included a salary for her, to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

In an October 26, 2007, letter to DaMate, DLNR director Laura Thielen tried to explain a few things. First, she noted, the governor had to officially select the eight `aha kiole members before any appropriations could be released.

“Although you notified us at our meeting of September 24, 2007, that you had been selected its director based on those nominated for consideration by the Governor, the Department needs the official selection of the eight `aha kiole members by the Governor and a written document of your appointment by the `aha kiole committee before we can request and release the Act’s appropriation,” Thielen wrote. “Additionally, the `aha kiole committee would need to provide the Department with a written statement that it approves of the budget and workplan being submitted.”

She noted that DaMate’s draft budget included funds for an executive director position, with benefits. “While we agree with the notion that a great deal of work is proposed by Act 212,” Thielen commented, “the Budget and Finance Department has indicated that the Act makes no specific provision for salary compensation, only for expenses.”

What’s more, Thielen wrote, the budget exceeded what Act 212 appropriated by $22,968. Also, she said, budget amounts for contract services and other categories did not match up in the documents DaMate provided.

Confusion

In reading the budget narrative DaMate sent to the DLNR, it seems that while she and other puwalu participants helped draft Act 212, they really didn’t understand what it did.

“On June 27, 2007, Gov. Lingle signed into law Act 212 which creates the Aha Moku Councils,” the narrative states. In a later section, it states, “An interim Aha Kiole Commission, per Act 212 would be put into place until the actual Aha Moku System can be further developed according to the Goals and Objectives listed. To achieve a successful outcome of developing the Aha Moku Systems, the interim Aha Kiole must adhere to the criteria for the position as described by the creators of the Act, the Ho`ohanohano I Na Kupuna Puwalu participants.” The narrative also described the need to select an executive director for the Aha Moku system, a position whose description seemed tailored to fit DaMate.

The executive director would have to be someone “who is intimately involved with the islands and moku, has participated in all of the Ho`ohanohano I Na Kupuna Puwalu Series and is committed to the success of the short and long term goals and objectives of the System [to] be put in place,” the budget narrative states.

In an interview with Environment Hawai`i, Thielen explained that Act 212 established the `aha kiole advisory committee to explore the possibility of creating an `aha moku system. However, the committee members that had been appointed seemed to think that they were the council, she said.

A close reading of the act confirms Thielen’s views. The committee, which will dissolve on June 30, 2009, is tasked with the following responsibilities:

• Explore, examine, and derive best practice models for the creation of an `aha moku council system.

• Engage in discussions with and participate in meetings and events held statewide to gain a perspective and develop a consensus on establishing an `aha moku council system with an `aha moku council commission.

• Establish an administrative structure for the commission to oversee the council system, which shall consist of eight `aha kiole members.

• Establish a standard eligibility criteria and selection process for each `aha kiole member and the selection of an executive director.

• Establish goals and objectives for an `aha moku council commission. (Files at the DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources, include a detailed spreadsheet of draft `aha moku systems objectives and goals from DaMate, dated August 27, 2007, two months before committee members were appointed.)

• Establish a feasible operational budget for an `aha moku council commission to conduct meetings, cover administrative expenses, and disseminate information and advice for the creation of an `aha moku council system.

• Submit an interim report of findings and recommendations before the 2008 legislative session, and a final report before the 2009 session.

Although a lot of this work was fleshed out in the puwalu, the act requires the DLNR to provide support services to the committee “as the advisory committee deems necessary,” and the Legislature appropriated $110,000 a year to the DLNR for fiscal years 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 for administrative costs to help the committee encourage full participation in discussions on the creation of a council system.

Jumping the Gun

On October 31, 2007, Gov. Lingle announced the appointment of the eight `aha kiole advisory committee members: Ilei Beniamina (Ni`ihau), Sharon Pomroy (Kaua`i), Charles Kapua (O`ahu), Vanda Hanakahi (Moloka`i), Winifred Basques (Lana`i), Leslie Kuloloio (Kaho`olawe), Timothy Bailey (Maui), and Hugh Lovell (Hawai`i). In 2006 and 2007, according to information provided by the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, six of these people had received $795 each to attend three puwalu, while another had received $545 to attend two.

On November 1, the committee held its “first official meeting” at the Pagoda Hotel in Honolulu, according to a November 1 letter to Thielen from Hanakahi, who identified herself as the committee’s chair. Hanakahi informed Thielen that, at the meeting, the committee had unanimously selected DaMate as its “community coordinator.”

“Their selection was approved by the more than 100 `Aha Moku representatives participating in the Ho`ohanohano I Na Kupuna Puwalu `Elima held on October 31 and November 1, 2007,” Hanakahi wrote.

In a second budget proposal dated October 30, the committee proposed holding 53 ahupua`a/moku meetings on the various islands, eight mokupuni meetings, three in-person `aha kiole committee meetings, and one puwalu each year “to continue the Ho`ohanohano I Na Kupuna Puwalu Series, as stated in Act 212.”

Costs proposed for the puwalu included air, lodging and per diem payments for 65 off-island farming (mahi`ai) and fishing (lawai`a) practitioners. The draft budget also included $40,000 a year for a community coordinator who would travel to all islands to facilitate community meetings, generate reports, and plan and run the puwalu. The community coordinator, as well as puwalu facilitators ($5,020/year) and transcribers ($2,500/year) would all be contract employees.

When in early November the committee developed a scope of work for the community coordinator, the position’s “special qualifications” once more seemed tailored to fit DaMate. In addition to good communication skills and knowledge of Hawaiian language, culture and practices, the coordinator “must have been intimately involved through planning and attendance with all Puwalu in the Ho`ohanohano I Na Kupuna Puwalu Series, must have assisted in the drafting of Act 212, must have been active as the liaison between the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, other government agencies, and the Puwalu participants.”

On December 28, the committee submitted its interim report to the Legislature. According to the report, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs submitted to the governor a list of 21 nominees for the `aha kiole committee on October 9, more than two weeks after DaMate informed Thielen she had been selected to be the committee’s executive director.

The report also explains how, without any public notice, the committee met and voted to select DaMate as its community coordinator. The committee members happened to be attending a puwalu in Honolulu the day they were officially appointed, and “at the end of the conference, they took advantage of the special circumstance of their all being together to briefly meet. During this time, they selected Vanda Hanakahi of Moloka`i as chairperson. They asked Leimana DaMate of Ka`u to assist them as community coordinator.”

At its first publicly noticed meeting, held January 15 at the State Capitol, the committee again voted to make Hanakahi chair, and made Bailey recording secretary. The committee also held an executive session, although it is not clear from meeting notes taken by DLNR’s Francis Oishi why one was held. DaMate’s selection as community coordinator was apparently not discussed.

Even so, on January 9, six days before the committee’s first publicly noticed meeting, Thielen sent a request to the State Procurement Office for an exemption from the public bidding process so that the DLNR could enter into a $220,000 contract with DaMate to carry out much of the committee’s work. The contract term was initially to run from November 2007 through June 30, 2009, but was amended to start on January 11, 2008.

Oishi, who is overseeing the `aha kiole project for the DLNR, says that the total amount is not for DaMate’s salary, but will cover all of the committee’s expenses, including a salary for her. The draft budget submitted to the Legislature includes $40,000 for the community coordinator position plus nearly $2,000 for her travel expenses.

On January 28, the procurement office sent the request back to the DLNR. Although he says he is not sure why it was returned, Oishi says that the contract issue is moot right now. As of last month, the Department of Budget and Finance had not responded to a request by Thielen in late November to release the funds for the committee’s work, and Oishi says the future of the committee is “kind of academic at this point. We have no money to do it.” Although he still wants to expend the appropriation through a contract, whether that can be done depends on what funds the governor will release, he says.

Hanakahi wrote Thielen in early November asking for permission to periodically have access to DLNR office space, perhaps in the Honolulu and neighbor island offices of the department’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife or Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement. It appears from documents at the DLNR that she got no reply. Although the committee doesn’t have any funding, and apparently, no office space, it is managing to get some work done.

Efforts to reach DaMate and Hanakahi were not successful by press time. Wai`anae fisherman and Na Imi Pono member William Aila says that `aha kiole committee member Charles Kapua has held meetings with communities in Wai`anae on O`ahu, although no notices or minutes of these meetings were found in files at the DLNR.

Based on his knowledge of the committee’s work so far, Aila is skeptical about whether the directives of Act 212 are being met. What’s more, he adds, “The law as created did not say it was the only council [that deals with native Hawaiians issues], but they are certainly posturing themselves as though they are.”

A Hindrance

In the meantime, Hanalei resident Maka`ala Ka`aumoana and others involved in community-based resource management say that the `aha kiole legislation may be hampering efforts in some places. Ka`aumoana says people wanting to do community-based resource management on Maui had been told by the area’s state representative to wait until an `aha moku system is in place.

“The state is proceeding with place-based management anyway,” Ka`aumoana said in an interview. “If you do something place-based, it’s cultural. It may not be purely Hawaiian…[but] we don’t need to wait until the `aha moku system is in place.” The state’s newly revised Ocean Resources Management Plan, which DaMate helped create, already contains similar concepts to the `aha moku system, Ka`aumoana pointed out. “I don’t know why they had to do [an `aha moku council system] in addition,” she said.

— Teresa Dawson

Volume 18, Number 9 March 2008

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