Thursday, January 6, 2000
against the state AGThe issue: Former Bishop Estate trustee Oswald Stender says the state Attorney General's Office for years ignored his complaints of abuses by the Bishop Estate board.IN a lawsuit he filed against the state Attorney General's Office, former Bishop Estate trustee Oswald Stender makes a provocative allegation. Stender says he warned the office repeatedly from 1992 to 1997 of breaches of trust by the Bishop Estate board but no action resulted. The suit charges that the Attorney General's Office failed to fulfill its responsibility to protect the trust by its lack of response to his complaints.
Our view: The Bishop Estate was treated as a sacred cow until the trustees lost the support of the Hawaiian community.
Stender is one of the defendants in a suit filed by the attorney general that attempts to collect tens of millions of dollars from the five former trustees for alleged breaches of their fiduciary duties. He seeks dismissal of the case against him but not the other four former trustees, Lokelani Lindsey, Henry Peters, Richard Wong and Gerard Jervis.
Whether Stender's suit has merit is of course up to the courts to decide, but the question he raises is important. It is true that he was a persistent critic of his fellow trustees but could not get the state to investigate them for years.
In the first years, John Waihee was the governor. Waihee reportedly wanted an appointment to the board for himself upon completion of his second term. It is unlikely that he would have been sympathetic to any complaint from Stender about the trustees' behavior.
Ben Cayetano succeeded Waihee as governor in 1994. Nothing happened for nearly three years. Not until alumni and parents of students of Kamehameha Schools staged an unprecedented protest march to the Bishop Estate offices and the Star-Bulletin published a blistering attack on the trustees titled "Broken Trust" did Cayetano's attorney general, Margery Bronster, launch the investigation that ultimately resulted in the ouster of the trustees.
It seems clear that the explanation for the timing of the investigation is political. For years the Bishop Estate was a sacred cow. No politician dared to criticize its operations, partly because the Hawaiian community was strongly protective of the institution, partly because the trustees were highly influential -- some of them in fact were former leading politicians.
When the Star-Bulletin published a series of articles critical of the Bishop Estate in 1988, this newspaper was deluged with letters from Kamehameha Schools alumni and other Hawaiians defending the trustees.
Unfortunately for the former trustees, Lokelani Lindsey managed to alienate the Hawaiian community with her high-handed micromanagement of the schools. Then a University of Hawaii professor of law, Randall Roth, got four distinguished part-Hawaiians to contribute to and sign off on the "Broken Trust" article.
That gave Cayetano a green light to take on the Bishop Estate. The attorney general announced the investigation shortly after the article appeared.
For years Stender was a voice in the political wilderness. He was ignored by the state because the Bishop Estate was considered untouchable. For daring to speak out against abuses despite the enormous odds, he deserves the gratitude of this community.
Bishop Estate Archive
State Internet site
will be improvementThe issue: The state will launch an interactive Internet site in a few months to allow residents to make transactions online.HAWAII residents soon will gain easier access to state agencies through an Internet site aimed at answering queries, processing numerous applications and performing other transactions. Most of the services will be free, while a few fees on high-volume transactions will be assessed to pay for the Web site's operation by a private company. Early usage of the Web site should clarify its future direction.
Our view: The site will put the state in a good position to meet expectations of residents who increasingly use the Internet to pay bills and use other services.
The state's Web site has been entirely informational with limited ability even to handle queries. The new site, to be activated in a few months as "Access Hawaii," will allow residents to pay taxes, renew licenses, apply for jobs and make payments by credit card.
Fees will be charged for only 5 percent of the services to be made available, according to Joseph Nemelka, executive vice president of National Information Consortium Inc., the Kansas-based company that will operate the Web site through a subsidiary called Hawaii Information Consortium Inc.
Commissions ranging from 25 cents to $2 will be added to fees already being charged for high-volume transactions such as marriage licenses and business registrations. People unwilling to pay extra for carrying out transactions on the Internet will still be able to make them in person.
Kathryn Matayoshi, director of the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, says her staff processes 180,000 registrations and licenses a year. "We need to find ways to meet increasing demands without increasing our staff," she says.
Hawaii has been behind many states in making use of the new technology, but inauguration of the new Web site should change that. It will become only the eleventh state to operate an interactive Web site, a necessary step in adapting to the arrival of the computer age.
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