Bishop Estate offered lesson in citizen activism
A new book by two of the authors of the "Broken Trust" essay of 1997 details the controversy about leadership of the Bishop Estate, now Kamehameha Schools.
HISTORIC reforms in the estate left by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop were triggered nine years ago by a courageous assault on the institution's operation by five distinguished people. Their lengthy essay
was published in this section of the Star- Bulletin, and major changes were forthcoming. The extraordinary events, described in lucid detail in a new book by two of the essay's authors, demonstrated the importance of vigorous citizen involvement in public affairs.
EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK
Sunday: Trustees of Bishop Estate held power without accountability, a recipe for disaster.
Monday: The selection of Bishop Estate trustees by Supreme Court justices showed signs of manipulation.
Tuesday: Kamehameha Schools alumni, staff and students rose up against trustee Lokelani Lindsey.
Wednesday: Investigating Bishop Estate was like probing the CIA, said a court-appointed master.
Thursday: Attorney General Margery Bronster went head to head with Supreme Court justices over trustee selection.
Friday: Instead of housecleaning, the interim trustees of Bishop Estate "handed the keys to the old guard."
Sunday: Readers weigh in on the new "Broken Trust" book in letters to the editor.
This link takes you to the original "Broken Trust" essay of Aug. 9, 1997, and other Star-Bulletin stories about Kamehameha Schools.
The Star-Bulletin has published excerpts
during the past week of "Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement and Political Manipulation at America's Largest Charitable Trust" by Randall Roth, a trust law professor at the University of Hawaii, and senior U.S. District Judge Samuel P. King. Walter Heen, the late Gladys Brandt and the late Msgr. Charles Kekumano shared their byline above the original "Broken Trust" essay.
The group had planned to have its essay about the Bishop Estate, since renamed Kamehameha Schools, published in the Honolulu Advertiser. A rift with that newspaper's editor about its content prompted Roth, with the other authors' consent, to approach the Star-Bulletin, which immediately agreed to its publication.
The essay ran in what was then Saturday's Insight section on Aug. 9, 1997. The episode was cited as a prime example of the need for two competing daily newspapers in Honolulu, and the Star-Bulletin was kept alive five years ago despite an attempt to shut us down.
In an editorial published on the same day as the "Broken Trust" essay, we called for the resignation of the four trustees who had been named to the panel because of political considerations. They and the fifth, Oswald Stender, described in the book as an "accidental trustee," all would resign in 1999.
The essay called for changes in the way trustees were selected, an attorney general's investigation of trustee conduct and repeal of the law allowing exorbitant trustee compensation. All three recommendations were heeded within two years.
Trustees had been selected by the justices of the state Supreme Court, a politicized system that had created a massive conflict of interest whenever a lawsuit involving the estate was appealed. The selection process, along with determination of "reasonable" trustee compensation, now is properly placed in the hands of a probate judge, with trustees chosen from a screening committee's recommendations.
Then-Gov. Ben Cayetano opened an attorney general investigation three days after the essay's publication, and the Internal Revenue Service threatened to revoke the estate's tax-exempt status. Criminal charges against two of the resigned trustees were dismissed and a civil court settlement ended the controversy, with records sealed.
Some of the trustees who resigned still defend their conduct, which we regarded as egregious and still do. The five essay authors performed a valuable public service, and the illuminating book by Roth and King appropriately has put the controversy in a historic context.