Daily Archives: February 11, 2013

Abercrombie administration relying on threats rather than persuasion?

I was very interested to see accounts of another instance of alleged threats and intimidation by Gov. Abercrombie’s chief of staff, Bruce Coppa, who also serves as the state’s administrative director.

The latest allegation was made by Michelle Kauhane, former deputy director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (see reports by the Star-Advertiser, KHON, and Civil Beat). The Civil Beat story includes a link to Kauhane’s recording of her meeting with Coppa.

What’s interesting is that this is just one in a series of incidents in which Coppa acts as the administration’s hammer who threatens those perceived as threatening his boss, the governor, or the governor’s policies and proposals.

It wasn’t too long ago that UH President M.R.C. Greenwood described a similar incident in which she was pressured and reportedly felt threatened by the governor and Coppa. She disclosed the incident during her Senate testimony only under pressure from Senator Donna Kim.

I’ve heard an insider’s account of another incident in which a nonprofit agency’s funding was threatened if it didn’t mute criticism of one of the governor’s policy proposals.

In light of this, I doubt these are isolated incidents. A further guess is that a bit of digging will turn up other instances in which the administration has turned to threats and punishment rather than persuasion of those who find themselves at odds with the governor.

Is this more blatant than in prior administrations or simply more clumsily done? At this stage, I wouldn’t hazard a guess.

An aside–KHON reported Kauhane was being investigated for suspending DHHL’s “recertification” process.

KHON2 has confirmed DHHL officials and the Attorney General’s office have investigated since at least 2011 what happened after DHHL employees were told not to double check whether leaseholders were indeed “Hawaiian” enough to keep benefits, if they already managed to qualify once.

KHON2 obtained an email from now-fired Deputy Director Michelle Kauhane from fall 2011 in which she instructs staff, “Effective immediately, we do not need to re-certify a Hawaiian who has already been proved to meet the blood quantum requirements.”

What the agency calls “recertification” sounds like a major, unnecessary administrative load for an already burdened bureaucracy, and for the beneficiaries who must get past yet another hurdle. Since one’s ancestry doesn’t change over time, it seems to make little sense to repeat the certification process over and over again. I can understand a review if there are questions or a challenge raised, but otherwise this is an unnecessary drain on the agency’s limited time and money, and a substantial burden for beneficiaries.