Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, May 31, 1999

Bronster aftermath

Part I: Life after being the A.G.


FROM her two-story house on Wilhelmina Rise, Margery Bronster has a sweeping view of Kahala and the Pacific. These days, the former Hawaii attorney general has lots more time to enjoy it.

On April 28, the state Senate infuriated the public by voting 14-11 against Margery's reconfirmation, despite her department's many accomplishments.

The most highly publicized was the historic investigation of the five Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate trustees. It led to the permanent firing of Lokelani Lindsey, temporary removal of Richard Wong, Henry Peters and Gerard Jervis, and resignation of Oswald Stender.

Thus, in the most bitter-sweet of victories, Margery helped do the unthinkable: forcing reform on the incredibly rich and powerful trust while losing her job in the process. "My biggest regret is not being able to see it all through," she says of her former A.G responsibilities. "But I'm happy, at least, that it wasn't all for naught."

Yet the bigger question still looms: Will the flood of public dismay trickle off before the next election, to the delight of those nay-saying senators?

Margery doesn't think so. She sees a parallel between her predicament and what happened to the KS/BE trustees. "The people of Hawaii are slow to anger," says Margery. "But once angered, they are moved."

She cites as an example the Kamehameha alumni group, Na Pua, whose members were outraged at how Lindsey was usurping authority from school President Michael Chun, and that the majority trustees ignored their concerns.

Finally, in disgust, they organized a public demonstration and continued to churn the momentum that led to all five trustees' removal. "They (the members of Na Pua) said, enough is enough. Their protest march was meant to show they would NOT go away quietly," says Margery.

SHE thinks history may repeat itself next fall. The public outcry over her rejection, Margery believes, was partly due to voters' belief that they were being ignored by senators. She tried to contact all of them, but some didn't return phone calls and refused to see her in their offices.

Hundreds of other islanders reported receiving the same unresponsive or condescending treatment -- like one Hawaii resident who faxed this letter to Senate President Norman Mizuguchi on May 7:

"On May 3, I called your office and left a message, hoping that I would have an opportunity to talk to you about my feelings on the vote against the confirmation of Margery Bronster, but I did not receive a return call...

"Elected officeholders are expected to cast votes with which we disagree. This, however, was more than that. The ouster of Bronster constituted a failure to understand that, in the public's mind, the attorney general was and is the key litigant for and on behalf of all the people in the pursuit of justice in the matter of the Bishop Estate.

"To fire the state's chief lawyer in the midst of the most important case of this administration must be viewed as a deliberate, intentional interference in the swift and authoritative prosecution of this case...

"Every single member of the Democratic Party will have to endure the criticism emanating from this action. It is a grave setback for us."

The letter was signed by U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink.

Want to bet that, in November 2000, Hawaii voters will embrace two words now emblazoned on a popular T-shirt? It declares with simple conviction, "Remember Bronster."

Bishop Estate Archive

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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