Saturday, March 6, 1999

No action taken
on school morale

Trustee Richard Wong made
the comment while testifying
in the Lindsey trial

By Rick Daysog


Bishop Estate Chairman Richard "Dickie" Wong says he took no action to address morale problems at the estate-run Kamehameha Schools, even after hundreds of parents and graduates marched in protest in May 1997.

The startling admission marked Wong's third day on the witness stand in the 4-month-old trial to remove Bishop Estate trustee Lokelani Lindsey.

Testifying before Circuit Judge Bambi Weil yesterday, Wong said he did not place the issue of morale problems on the agenda of the board's twice weekly meetings, despite a 1996 report by mainland consulting firm Sheppard Associates that identified major morale problems at the trust. Wong said he was not aware that the school even had a problem until the May 1997 march.

"I know we're supposed to know, but trustees did not know that there was a morale problem," said Wong, a former state Senate president. "I think we were concerned with a lot of other things."

Students, parents and teachers have complained that the trustees are indifferent to their concerns.

Wong's testimony is playing a crucial role in Lindsey's defense in the removal trial.

Trustees Oswald Stender and Gerard Jervis are seeking Lindsey's ouster from her $840,000-a-year trustee job, alleging she mismanaged Kamehameha Schools, undermined school President Michael Chun and intimidated staffers and students.

Lindsey's lawyers argue that she has been unfairly blamed for campus morale problems. They said she was forced to take a more active role on the campus after the board lost confidence in Chun.

Wong backed up Lindsey's account, blaming Chun for the board's inaction on the morale issue. Wong said Chun kept them in the dark about the campus turmoil, and that the school president added to the problem by shutting down a faculty organization which would have allowed teachers to voice grievances.

"I'm going to place it at the feet of Dr. Chun," Wong said. "If the leader doesn't know what's going on, how are we to know?"

During a sometimes heated cross-examination by Stender's attorney, Douglas Ing, Wong also took aim at a key study alleging wrongdoing by Lindsey, calling the estate's own fact-finding report unbalanced.

Wong said the fact-finder, retired Circuit Judge Patrick Yim, did not seek management's side of the campus controversy, resulting in an unfair description of events.

Yim's December 1997 study -- whose findings were commissioned and adopted by the trustees -- harshly criticized Lindsey's management of the Kamehameha Schools and urged her to step down as the estate's lead trustee for education.

"I want the judge to know that the controversy has created problems at the Kamehameha Schools. Friends are against friends," Wong said. "It's crazy. It is absolutely crazy."

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