Star-Bulletin file photo
Lokelani Lindsey talks with her lawyers
in a courtroom in Janurary.
Passionate aboutBy Rick Daysog
had the right stuff
to be a fine trustee
Back in 1993 when the state Supreme Court named Marion Mae Lokelani Lindsey as the 30th trustee in the 100-year history of the Bishop Estate, she had all the credentials.
Part-Hawaiian, a 30-year career as an educator and the first female board member to carry on the legacy of the last direct descendant of the Kamehameha dynasty, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.
But the 60-year-old former gym teacher will be most remembered for igniting a controversy that has stirred much anguish within the Kamehameha ohana and has brought the full board of trustees to the brink of destruction.
Her micromanagement of the estate-run Kamehameha Schools, alleged misuse and waste of trust assets and her intimidation of students and teachers have left lasting burn marks on the Kapalama Heights campus, critics said.
As fellow trustee Gerard Jervis once said of Lindsey's six-year tenure on the board: "She left a trail behind her of harm and destruction."
Lindsey, through her husband, Stephen, declined comment on yesterday's ruling by Circuit Judge Bambi Weil ordering Lindsey permanently and immediately removed from her $1 million-a-year post.
But in the past, she has denied wrongdoing, saying she had been a victim of a rumor campaign orchestrated by fellow trustee Oswald Stender. She fully expected to be vindicated during the five-month trial over Stender's and Jervis' suit to remove her.
Throughout the five-month trial that ended last month, Lindsey's lawyers tried to depict her as a champion for education who fought to improve educational opportunities for native Hawaiian children and refused to accept the idea that Hawaiian children could not do as well as children of other ethnicities.
Her attorney, Michael Green, said Lindsey took a hands-on management approach with Kamehameha Schools only after she lost faith in school president Michael Chun.
Supporters, such as the estate travel coordinator, Hannabelle Anderson, portrayed Lindsey as a caring executive whom she dubbed "1-800 Auntie Kokua." When the school volleyball team needed new uniforms and the gym needed renovating, Lindsey was always there to help, said Anderson, wife of state Sen. Whitney Anderson.
"I admire Lindsey because she stands for quality," added Lydia Hale, an 85-year-old kupuna who advised Lindsey on Hawaiian language issues.
In many ways, Lindsey's humble upbringing belies her ascent to the Bishop Estate board room.
Born in 1938, Lindsey grew up on a small farm in Windward Oahu. At the age of 16, she dropped out of of school to get married and raise a child. She later graduated from Kahuku High School in 1956, and in 1965 she received a bachelor's degree in physical education and biological sciences from Brigham Young University-Hawaii.
Ten years later, she obtained a master's degree in Pacific Island studies from the University of Hawaii. While in college she held several part-time jobs, working as a bartender, dishwasher and tour bus driver.
After teaching stints at Kahuku and Kaimuki High Schools, Lindsey was named vice principal of Campbell High School in 1978. She later served as vice principal of Baldwin High School on Maui before she was named Maui district superintendent in 1982.
Lindsey's hard-luck upbringing goes a long way in explaining her style. Although abrasive, Lindsey believes she has the children's best interests at heart, according to Green.
"She's from Kahuku. She's a tita. No disrespect, but she knows how to fight," Green said. "She, as the evidence has shown, is the most passionate woman about education."
Bishop Estate archive
Events that led to the removal of Bishop Estate trustee Marion Mae Lokelani Lindsey:
Going, going, gone
May 15, 1997: More than 500 Kamehameha Schools parents, students, alumni and supporters march on Bishop Estate headquarters to protest what they said was trustees' micromanagement of the Kapalama Heights campus.
Aug. 9, 1997: Five prominent community leaders publish the critical "Broken Trust" article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. The article alleges mismanagement of trust assets, conflicts of interests by individual trustees and criticizes the trustees' selection process by the state Supreme Court.
Aug. 12, 1997: Gov. Ben Cayetano orders Attorney General Margery Bronster to open an investigation into Bishop Estate trustees.
Dec. 5, 1997: Bishop Estate trustee Lokelani Lindsey goes public with her report criticizing the test scores of Kamehameha Schools students. Trustees Gerard Jervis and Oswald Stender criticize Lindsey, saying her report was inaccurate and caused harm to students.
Dec. 9, 1997: Lindsey steps down as lead trustee for the estate's educational programs.
Dec. 12, 1997: State judge unseals court-appointed fact-finder Patrick Yim's report on the management of Kamehameha Schools. It alleges that Lindsey managed by "intimidation" and fostered "an environment of favoritism" at the campus. Lindsey denied the charges.
Dec. 20, 1997: The state Supreme Court removes itself from selecting Bishop Estate trustees, ending a century-old tradition.
Dec. 29, 1997: Jervis and Stender file court papers seeking Lindsey's removal from Bishop Estate's board, saying she breached her fiduciary duties and was unfit to serve.
July 28, 1998: An audit of the management of the Kamehameha Schools faults schools President Michael Chun's leadership. The report also criticizes trustees for not seeking input from parents, alumni and teachers when making key decisions that affect the schools.
Aug. 7, 1998: Court-appointed master Colbert Matsumoto files his reviews of the estate's 1994-1996 fiscal year criticizing the estate for accumulating $350 million in trust income that should have been spent for Kamehameha Schools.
Sept. 9, 1998: In response to Matsumoto's report, Bronster calls for the temporary removal of four trustees of the Bishop Estate, saying they withheld $350 million owed to the schools and jeopardized the tax-exempt status of the estate.
Sept. 10, 1998: Bronster calls for the removal of Wong, Peters and Lindsey, charging they took part in a widespread pattern of self-dealing and mismanagement.
Nov. 11, 1998: The four-month trial to remove Bishop Estate trustee Lokelani Lindsey begins. Trustees Oswald Stender and Gerard Jervis sought her removal on the grounds that she breached her fiduciary duties and is unfit to serve. She denies the charges.
Nov. 25, 1998: An Oahu grand jury indicts Bishop Estate trustee Henry Peters for theft, alleging he received a $192,000 kickback from a Hawaii Kai land deal.
March 11, 1999: Bishop Estate trustee Gerard Jervis is rushed to the hospital after taking an overdose of sleeping pills. His overdose comes a week after a trust employee died in an apparent suicide. The day before her death, Jervis and the female worker were caught in a compromising position in a men's restroom at the Hawaii Prince Hotel in Waikiki.
April 12, 1999: Bishop Estate Chairman Richard "Dickie" Wong is indicted on a first-degree theft charge, perjury and conspiracy for allegedly taking a $115,800 kickback involving the sale of his Makiki condo and a Bishop Estate land deal in Hawaii Kai.
April 27, 1999: IRS files a report with state probate court saying it may revoke the estate's tax-exempt status if all five trustees do not step down.
Bishop Estate archive