Thursday, January 7, 1999

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Lokelani Lindsey, on the stand yesterday for the first time
in the trial in which her removal is sought, defended the
decisions she made as the lead trustee for the estate's
educational programs.

Lindsey defends
actions as trustee

Taking the stand in her removal
trial, she blames a 'conspiracy'
for the allegations against her

By Rick Daysog


She is the Bishop Estate's first female trustee and its first board member with three decades of experience as an educator.

But Lokelani Lindsey also is the first trustee in the estate's 114-year history to face a removal petition by fellow board members.

Yesterday, Lindsey took the witness stand for the first time in her 2-month-old removal trial to answer questions about her role in the controversy that has rocked the trust and the Kamehameha Schools.

Today, she testified about her release of a controversial report in December 1997 critical of students' academic progress at the Kamehameha Schools. Dubbed "An Imperative for Educational Change," the report charged that students' test scores declined the longer they remained at Kamehameha.

Fellow trustees Oswald Stender and Gerard Jervis, who are seeking Lindsey's ouster from the board, claim the report is inaccurate and was designed to deflect criticism from Lindsey.

Under questioning today by Stender attorney Crystal Rose, Lindsey said she felt the report was accurate based on information available to her at the time. She said it was not meant to provide a broad assessment of Kamehameha's quality of education but was intended to point out specific problems.

Jervis and Stender are seeking Lindsey's removal, alleging that she breached her fiduciary duties, mismanaged the school and is unfit to serve as a trustee.

Lindsey yesterday defended her decisions as the former lead trustee for the estate's educational programs, attributing the allegations to a campus "conspiracy" that has infected the school's atmosphere.

She has attributed the conspiracy to Stender and other Kamehameha Schools staffers who she believes turned on her after she attempted to improve the Kapalama Heights campus.

"I don't have a volatile personality," said Lindsey, former Maui District superintendent for the state Department of Education.

Much of Lindsey's five-plus hours of testimony yesterday centered on allegations she harmed Kamehameha Schools and intimidated students and teachers.

Under questioning by Rose, Lindsey conceded that she mouthed the word "liar" in court when witness Randie Fong, head of Kamehameha Schools' performing arts department, testified on Nov. 19 about an alleged run-in he had with Lindsey.

She said Fong had lied about the April 1997 incident, in which Lindsey reportedly screamed and swore at him for five minutes.

Lindsey also acknowledged that she initiated an investigation of Kamehameha Schools staffers over the March 1998 release of an accreditation study by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges to the local news media.

The WASC review -- granting the Kamehameha Schools a three-year accreditation instead of the six that it had sought -- faulted trustees for a perverse application of top-down management.

Lindsey said that on March 19, 1998, she instructed the estate's in-house lawyer, Nathan Aipa, to investigate the source of the leak. She also urged that the estate retain its outside law firm, McCorriston Miho Miller Mukai, to conduct the investigation.

Lawyers from the McCorriston firm later questioned staffers under oath and without their attorneys. The interviews were conducted in front of a court reporter and workers were asked if they would submit to a polygraph test.

The questionings were later halted by Jervis, who along with Stender, obtained a temporary restraining order.

Lindsey said she felt the investigation was necessary because the WASC report was confidential and its findings were not final. As Maui Schools superintendent, Lindsey said, she's often hired outside attorneys to investigate serious problems.

She added that she felt that employees did not have a right to an attorney in cases where an internal investigation is being conducted.

"This has been happening for a long time. I wanted people accountable for this," Lindsey said.

Lindsey also was questioned about an internal investigation of some 800 Kamehameha high schools students who signed a petition to support Attorney General Margery Bronster's September 1998 petition to temporarily remove all five trustees.

Lindsey said she voted with trustees Richard Wong and Henry Peters to investigate whether some staffers were encouraging students to sign.

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