Monday, September 4, 2000
impressive groupThe issue: A court-appointed committee has nominated seven business and community leaders as finalists to become trustees of the Kamehameha Schools.
Our view: Any of the seven would serve the schools well.
ONE of the incidents that fueled indignation over the Bishop Estate was the decision of the state Supreme Court in 1994 to reject the list of names submitted by a court-appointed panel of distinguished citizens to fill a vacancy on the Bishop Estate Board of Trustees. The court then appointed Gerard Jervis, a friend of Gov. John Waihee, to the post.
Although Jervis had other qualifications, his relationship to Waihee furthered the impression that the trustee appointments were heavily influenced by politics. Jervis subsequently became embroiled in questionable activities of the trustees that ultimately led to their ouster -- although after the controversy erupted he tried to dissociate himself from the board majority.
Three years ago the Supreme Court justices, smarting under criticism from the authors of the "Broken Trust" article published in the Star-Bulletin, announced they would no longer appoint trustees of the estate, now known as Kamehameha Schools, as provided for in the will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.
Now the question of appointment of trustees is again before the community. A court-appointed committee has nominated seven business and community leaders as finalists to fill the five seats on the Kamehameha Schools board, which are currently occupied by interim trustees. The list of names was filed Friday with the state probate court, which will select five names from the seven submitted. Before that decision is made, there will be a 30-day period for public comment. There was no such opportunity for public comment when appointments were made previously.
The seven nominees, chosen from more than 200 applicants, comprise a distinguished group. Two of them, retired Navy Adm. Robert Kihune and Constance Lau, chief operating officer of American Savings Bank, are members of the interim board.
The others -- attorney Douglas Ing, Chris Kanazawa, former president of Amfac-JMB Hawaii, Diane Plotts, former Hemmeter Corp. executive, Dwayne Steele, chairman of Grace Pacific Corp., and Hawaiian traditional navigator Nainoa Thompson -- all offer valuable qualifications as well. None can be accused of having been considered for political reasons, unlike the ousted trustees who brought disgrace to the institution.
It is inconceivable that the probate court would follow the unfortunate example of the Supreme Court justices in 1994 and disregard the recommendations of the screening committee. Whoever is chosen from this group can be expected to serve the Kamehameha Schools well.
Bishop Estate archive
Nomination blockedThe issue: A career diplomat whose nomination for an ambassadorial post was held up in the Senate has resigned.
Our view: Partisanship should not force the nation to be deprived of the services of people needed for important jobs.
THE resignation of a career diplomat might not seem particularly noteworthy. But the circumstances of the departure of Peter Burleigh illustrate the damage that excessively partisan politics can do.
A 33-year veteran of the diplomatic service, Burleigh quit because he was tired of waiting for his nomination as ambassador to the Philippines to be approved in the Senate. It had been tied up for nine months because of an unrelated dispute involving a whistle-blower at the United Nations.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, had placed a so-called hold on Burleigh's nomination, blocking his assignment to Manila. The senator acted to put pressure on the State Department in connection with the case of Linda Shenwick, a member of the U.S. mission to the U.N. Grassley claimed she was punished for sharing information on U.N. financial irregularities with Congress.
The Office of Special Counsel found nothing punitive or improper about Shenwick's treatment. Burleigh's nomination had nothing to do with this case, but holding up the nomination served as a way to apply leverage to the State Department.
Burleigh is no mediocrity. He took charge of the U.N. mission as acting ambassador during the Kosovo crisis in September 1998 after Bill Richardson left to become energy secretary, and won strong praise for his performance.
During his year in charge of the U.N. mission, NATO bombed Yugoslavia to force a withdrawal of Serb troops and police accused of atrocities from Kosovo. He also was involved in negotiating the handover of two Libyan suspects for trial in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet and spoke out on crises from East Timor to Congo.
Richard Holbrooke, who now holds the United Nations post, said Burleigh had "the respect, the affection, the gratitude" of the entire U.S. Foreign Service and Clinton administration.
In a farewell reception last December, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised Burleigh's skills, saying "Peter has done incredible and remarkable work in the United Nations in a very difficult period."
With President Clinton's term ending, Senate Republicans don't have a motive -- at least not a partisan one -- to move on any nominations by the current administration. Federal judicial nominations for Hawaii have also been held up for long periods in the Republican Senate.
It was the same way when Democrats controlled Congress in the winding down of Ronald Reagan's second term, with approval of several nominations blocked.
This attitude ignores the national interest in getting nominees to important positions confirmed and on the job, regardless of party. The fact that Burleigh is a career diplomat underlines the need for bipartisanship in such matters.
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