- Associated Press - Friday, February 10, 2017

HONOLULU (AP) - Trustees for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs have voted to elect a new chairwoman.

The board of trustees chose Colette Machado of Molokai on Thursday to replace Rowena Akana, who was forced out on Feb. 2 after less than two months in the position.

Machado was first elected to the board in 1996. She previously served as chairwoman from December 2010 through November 2014.

“I am grateful that my fellow trustees have given me a second chance to lead them,” Machado said. “My goal is bring stability to the agency and rebuild our hale. We need to work together at the board level and with staff - embrace one and another with aloha so we can move forward for our Lahui.”

In her new role, Machado has already voiced support for Hawaiian Affairs CEO Kamanaopono Crabbe, whose leadership has been put into question.

A lawsuit filed by Campbell Estate heiress Abigail Kawananakoa Thursday seeks to invalidate Crabbe’s three-year, $150,000-a-year contract. It alleges the full board failed to authorize changes in the contract before it went into effect in November.

Machado says she’s confident the lawsuit will be dismissed. She also said the board should focus on where it can increase Crabbe’s “capacity” and improve him as a CEO.

“I think everyone’s been battered,” Machado said. “So it’s a matter of re-establishing. What that would look like, I’m not certain. But we’re going to have figure out how to resolve it.”

Machado also said she supports a proposed audit of the state agency tasked with improving the well-being of Native Hawaiians. The board’s resource management committee voted this week to move forward with the most comprehensive financial audit in the agency’s nearly 40-year history.

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