Grassroot Demands Accountability from Native Hawaiian Roll as Suit Is Filed for Lack of Transparency
Following repeated failed requests for public records, a nonprofit group and former Hawaii AG seek to compel disclosure
News Release from Grassroot Institute
HONOLULU, HAWAII--Feb. 18, 2015-After repeated efforts by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii and non-profit government watchdog group Judicial Watch to obtain a copy of the Native Hawaiian Roll (Kana'iolowalu), Judicial Watch and former Hawaii Attorney General Michael Lilly are filing suit to compel the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission to release the list to the public. The lack of cooperation and stall tactics employed in the effort to avoid compliance with state transparency laws raise serious concerns about the activities of the Commission as well as the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
The Native Hawaiian Roll, established in 2011 by Legislative Act 195 and administered by OHA, aims to create a voter list for an "aha" (constitutional convention). Enrollment in the Native Hawaiian Roll is limited to individuals of Native Hawaiian blood who complete an affidavit affirming "the unrelinquished sovereignty of the Hawaiian people."
According to Keli'i Akina, Ph.D., president of the Grassroot Institute, “After more than two years of enrollment efforts by OHA and the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission, the vast majority of Native Hawaiian people have chosen not to participate and many have serious concerns over the way the Roll has been compiled. There are numerous questions concerning the tens of thousands of names that have been placed on the list without the express permission of individuals, particularly those who provided their names to lists such as Kau Inoa which does not affirm ‘unrelinquished sovereignty.’ Other questions concern the process by which substantial numbers of prisoners have allegedly been added to the list.”
Dr. Akina continues: "The integrity of the process demands transparency so that Hawaiian groups and the public can hold the state agency OHA and the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission accountable. In addition, we are seeking, through a separate request, a full and accurate accounting of the financial transactions of the Roll Commission. Hawaiian beneficiaries and the general public deserve not to have this information withheld from us."
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, “Our litigation is important to uncovering potentially improper activities by a state agency that is classifying Hawaiians by race in a way that violates the U.S. Constitution. This issue is of national importance, as politicians in Hawaii and in Washington DC would put divisive racial politics before the rule of the law.”
Judicial Watch, in cooperation with the Grassroot Institute, first requested a copy of, “the complete enrollment list,” from the Roll Commission on August 8, 2014. On September 4, 2014, they received a response signed by Kanaiolowalu Executive Director Clyde Namuo, denying that request on the grounds that the work of the Commission was ongoing and there was no “complete enrollment list.” In an interesting coincidence, the Roll was also reopened at this time.
Although this was clearly an effort to dodge the request, Judicial Watch issued a revised request that took into account Mr. Namuo’s evasions. In a letter dated September 25, 2014, Namuo again denied the request, citing the ongoing work of the Roll as justification for his refusal to provide either the enrollment list or any documentation related to the decision to reopen it.
As it was clear that the Roll Commission had no intention of making its actions transparent, Judicial Watch appealed to Hawaii’s Office of Information Practices (OIP). The Office of Information Practices agreed that the grounds cited by the Roll for denying the request for the enrollment list was questionable. Believing that this information should be revealed to the public, Judicial Watch initiated Court proceedings to compel the disclosure of the requested information.
Copies of the appeal, the information requests, and the agency responses can be found at: LINK.
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Why the Lawsuit Against the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission Is Necessary
by Kelii Akina PhD, Grassroot Institute, February 21, 2015
Why is Grassroot Institute demanding that the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission, administered by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, release information the public has the right to know? This week, the non-profit group Judicial Watch filed a suit against the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission seeking to compel them to disclose the enrollment list that is to be the basis for the state government sponsored, race-based “nation-building” effort. The Grassroot Institute was a key part of both the original request for the list and the decision to go to Court. The issue is simple. Government is supposed to be open and transparent, and the Roll Commission, as government, needs to be accountable to Native Hawaiians and all citizens of the state.
This all began in August of last year, when we collaborated with Judicial Watch on a request for the complete enrollment list. Following denials by the Roll Commission and an appeal to the Office of Information Practices, it became clear that the only way to force the Roll Commission to fulfill their duty of public transparency was to take them to court.
But why does it matter? Put simply, a government agency is required by law conduct its business in the sunshine — especially when it involves a voter roll and an election on American soil.
Only by examining the list will citizens, journalists and Hawaiian organizations be able to resolve some troubling questions. For example, exactly how many names have been registered without the consent of individuals? It is public knowledge that tens of thousands of names have been “dumped into” the Native Hawaiian Roll without the express permission of individuals. This is scandalous to many since the Roll represents those who “affirm the unrelinquished sovereignty of the Hawaiian people,” although many who are now on the list do not hold this political position.
Additionally, OHA and the Roll Commission have spent millions of dollars on this enrollment effort despite the fact that the vast majority of Native Hawaiians have chosen not to enroll. There are serious concerns over the fact that these millions could have been better spent helping to meet the needs of many Hawaiians for housing, education, job opportunities, and more. By a separate action, Grassroot Institute is requesting a full financial disclosure of the expenses of the Commission.
Hawaiian beneficiaries and the general public deserve to know the facts about how public resources are being used. And they deserve the right to examine the Native Hawaiian Roll list. That’s why Grassroot Institute and our friends at Judicial Watch are serving as the public’s watchdogs.
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Free Hawaii: NATIVE HAWAIIAN ROLL SLAPPED WITH LAWSUIT FOR LACK OF TRANSPARENCY Roll Commissioners Refuse To Disclose Names On Roll
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Judicial Watch Asks Hawaiian Court to Order Release of State Records for Hawaiian Racial Registration Campaign
News Release from Judicial Watch, February 18, 2015
Judicial Watch announced today that on February 17, 2015, it filed an Application For An Order Allowing Inspection of Public Records against Hawaii’s Native Hawaiian Roll Commission (NHRC) and its Executive Director, Clyde W. Namuo, to obtain records regarding the enrollment list of “Native” Hawaiians created pursuant to the Kana’iolowalu, the NHRC’s controversial racial registration campaign. The Judicial Watch legal action was filed in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit, in Honolulu, Hawaii.
On July 20, 2012, using taxpayer funds from the State’s Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the NHRC launched the Kana’iolowalu campaign, opening a registration process for Native Hawaiians who desired to vote for a new race-based sovereign government.
When the registration process closed in January 2014 – after a long and expensive marketing effort – only 40,000 Native Hawaiians had registered.
The NHRC then reopened registration in March and again in August of 2014. During this period, the State Office of Hawaiian Affairs transferred government lists of “Native Hawaiians” who had previously registered their “ancestry” with the State agency to the Kana’iolowalu campaign. At least 87,000 names were transferred to the NHRC’s enrollment list. Individuals who object to being added to the race-based voter roll without their permission must file a form to have their names removed.
This enrollment list is being created under Act 195, the 2011 Hawaii law that authorizes the NHRC to create a list of “Native Hawaiians” who would be eligible to vote on issues concerning the sovereignty of the “Native Hawaiian people.” Act 195 defines a “Native Hawaiian” as any person whom the government determines to be a direct descendant of the State’s aboriginal peoples. A person may register for the Kana’iolowalu if, besides meeting the law’s racial requirements, that individual has “maintained a significant cultural, social, or civic connection to the Native Hawaiian community” and “wishes to participate” in organizing an anticipated “Native Hawaiian governing entity.”
The NHRC defines Kana’iolowalu as “the din that is being created by the mass of people who are coming together and moving forward to strive and achieve and recognize the unrelinquished sovereignty of the Native Hawaiian people …”
Judicial Watch has partnered with Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, an independent state think tank that has had longstanding concerns about Hawaii’s efforts to form and gain federal recognition of a race-based, sovereign nation are not in the best interest of either Native Hawaiians or the general population.
On August 8, 2014, after the NHRC roll had reportedly exceeded 125,000 registrants, Judicial Watch requested that the NHRC provide it with “the complete enrollment list of Native Hawaiians, known as the Kana’iolowalu.” On September 4, Clyde Namuo, on behalf of the NHRC, refused to produce the list, claiming that the NHRC’s work “is continuing and the complete enrollment list of Native Hawaiians you requested does not exist at this time.”
On September 5, 2014, Judicial Watch rephrased its request to ask for copies of the “enrollment list of Native Hawaiians, known as the Kana’iolowalu, as it existed at any one point in time following your receipt of this request.” It also asked for copies of “all documents discussing the decision to reopen, in or August 2014, registration for the Kana’iolowalu.” On September 25, 2014, Namuo again refused production of the requested documents on the grounds that “our registration work is ongoing and a certified enrollment list of Native Hawaiians does not exist at this time,” and that “Kana’iolowalu have never ceased” and “there is no need for documentation to administratively reopen the registration roll.”
As Judicial Watch pointed out in its court Application to enforce Hawaii’s open records law (the Uniform Information Practices Act):
Judicial Watch twice asked for the enrollment list as it exists along with documents regarding the reopening of registration, while NHRC irrationally responds that no such “certified” list exists and there is no “need” for documentation. Judicial Watch never asked for a “certified” list – just the list as it exists.
The Obama administration has been criticized for taking executive action towards “the reestablishment of a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community.”
“Racial classifications in order to allocate political power and government benefits have no place in Hawaii or anywhere in the United States. Hawaii public officials and the Obama administration are playing the race card to undermine the U.S. Constitution and our nation’s sovereignty,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Our court action highlights the scandal of a state agency harvesting names of citizens and then refusing to follow the law in disclosing its records.”
“The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is proud to work with Judicial Watch to ensure that Hawaiian groups and the public can hold the state agency OHA and the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission accountable,” added Keli’i Akina, president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. “We also are seeking, through a separate request, a full and accurate accounting of the financial transactions of the Roll Commission.”
Judicial Watch is being represented in this litigation by Michael Lilly of Ning, Lilly & Jones, a Honolulu law firm.
PDF: Application for Order Allowing Inspection of Public Records of Native Hawaiian Roll Commission