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Saturday, September 2, 2000

Kamehameha trustee
nominees, selection
process praised

But some have doubts about
the Kamehameha Schools nominees;
former trustee Peters says limited
terms 'politicize' the process

By Mary Adamski

People who set in motion the upheaval in Bishop Estate and ouster of its trustees three years ago applauded the latest chapter in selection of a new board for Kamehameha Schools.

Senior U.S. District Judge Samuel P. King said the seven nominees chosen from 209 applicants by a court-appointed trustee screening committee are "all great selections; any five of them would be marvelous."

King was also delighted with the revamped selection process, pointing out that it follows the recommendations from himself and other prominent community members whose 1997 "Broken Trust" essay jolted the state into a probe of the way Bishop Estate was managed. They recommended that trustees have defined terms and limited compensation.

But ousted trustee Henry Peters said appointments to five-year terms "politicizes the trustees (and) makes it a popularity contest" that will influence the decisions they make in overseeing the $6 billion estate.


"They all have earned their places in the business and professional world," said Gladys Brandt, retired Kamehameha School for Girls principal and "Broken Trust" co-author. She said what the selection committee "was looking for is competence. They really have a done a good job."

But Beadie Kanahele Dawson, former attorney for the Na Pua A Ke Alii Pauahi student-teacher-parent group, wasn't that positive. "I have had a great deal of confidence in the selection committee's ability to come up with good candidates that are not politically tainted or politically connected. I'm not sure it applies to all on that list," said Dawson, declining to name names.

The list of finalists submitted to Probate Court yesterday includes two of the court-named interim trustees who have directed the $6 billion charitable trust since February 1999. Three nominees are of Hawaiian ancestry: Douglas Ing, Robert Kihune and Nainoa Thompson.

The public will have 30 days in which to submit written comment on the candidates before Circuit Judge Kevin S.C. Chang names the five-member board.

Peters said: "I want to wish whoever it is the very best. I hope they will take the time to review (Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop's) will, to understand her wishes, to be loyal to that will. Hopefully they will change what the court has come down with in changing it."

The will provides that trustees be named by the Hawaii Supreme Court, but high court members stepped out of the process in the face of public criticism that politics tainted the Supreme Court's selections. Trustees served until age 70.

Peters said now, "every five years, they will run for office, having to go back through the selection process. It becomes a popularity contest. They'll make decisions in terms of what's popular.

"How do you plan for the long term in those conditions? This is a perpetual trust; it's not public office," said Peters, former speaker of the state House of Representatives. "I have a problem with the court dictating it shall be a part-time job. You're managing a multibillion corporation, all of assets are placed under their authority."

Under the recrafted trust structure, board members will be part-time, giving direction and oversight to the newly created chief executive officer. The trustees' pay is capped at $97,000 -- $120,000 for chairman -- rather than based on a percentage of the trust's investment returns, which gave prior trustees $1 million a year.

Peters also pointed out that the probate judge who will choose five trustees was formerly a partner in Watanabe Ing & Kawashima law firm, as is nominee Douglas Ing. "Judge Chang will make the selection. I don't think that's appropriate," said Peters.

Roy Benham, president of the Kamehameha Alumni Association and chairman of the selection committee, said he was pleased with the results. "We put in a lot of time. I was pleased with the caliber of applicants, and I hope people who aren't (finalists) will apply in the future."

Benham said that to establish the system of staggered five-year terms, the judge will decide who will serve shorter terms of 4, 3, 2 and 1 years on the first round of appointments.

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Kamehameha Schools

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