DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Small Business Hawaii presented "Broken Trust -- A Historic Forum on Political Corruption in Hawaii" yesterday at the Hale Koa Hotel. Group president Sam Slom, left, gave the opening comments at the forum, which featured U.S. Rep. Ed Case, activist Beadie Dawson, "Broken Trust" co-author and University of Hawaii law professor Randy Roth, former Campaign Spending Commission Director Robert Watada, "Broken Trust" co-author and federal Judge Samuel King and former Star-Bulletin Managing Editor David Shapiro. CLICK FOR LARGE
Former Bishop Estate trustee firm on innocence
Henry Peters says he was the victim of an "old-time lynching"
HENRY PETERS, former Bishop Estate trustee and House speaker, continues to defend himself in debates about the long-running political and legal scandal surrounding operation of the estate that funds Kamehameha Schools.
Peters spoke yesterday at a panel sponsored by Small Business Hawaii called "Broken Trust," after the Honolulu Star-Bulletin's 1997 publication of an essay charging the trustees of the $10 billion estate with "gross incompetence and massive trust mismanagement."
Earlier this year, two of the Broken Trust authors -- Randy Roth, a University of Hawaii law professor, and Sam King, senior U.S. district judge for Hawaii -- wrote a book reviewing the scandal called "Broken Trust -- Lessons Learned."
The two were on yesterday's panel at the Hale Koa Hotel.
Peters, who was in the audience yesterday, discounted the investigation, the scandal and the book.
"Obviously, the book was not written to be complimentary," Peters said.
Peters resigned from the estate in 1999 as his trial to force him off the estate was to begin, saying he was the victim of "an old-time lynching."
"I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy," Peters said yesterday.
According to Roth and King, however, Peters' income did not stop when he left the estate and he had become "entitled to approximately $600,000 a year under a deferred compensation contractual arrangement that he had arranged while a trustee."
Peters said yesterday that he had first been approached to join the estate shortly after he was named House speaker in 1980.
"About a week after I was speaker, I got approached by (former Chief Justice William) Richardson, who, as the chief justice said, 'Speaker, will you consider becoming a trustee?'" Peters said yesterday.
"I said, 'How can I take on something as new as that? I just became speaker. ... CJ, you are a prominent Hawaiian, how about you? You know the system.'"
Richardson was named by his fellow court members to the post of trustee, and four years later Peters received an appointment as well.
Peters yesterday said he was told after he joined the estate that his political help was needed.
The estate held thousands of acres in residential land that through government-approved condemnations was being forced to sell its property.
Peters said three trustees "came to see me and said we need you to help us at the Legislature. Why? 'Because we are getting our butts kicked.'
"What do you mean by that -- leasehold conversion?" Peters said.
Peters said he told the trustees -- Richard Lyman, Richardson and Myron Thompson -- that "whatever it takes for me to assist the institution, I am going to do it."
Peters said he did not think he was put on the estate because of his political influence or connections. And he said he saw nothing wrong with representing both the estate and his constituents during the 20 years he represented Waianae in the state House.
"I never hide anything. I went back to my constituency and said this is what is being requested of me," Peters said. "I served them well as both a trustee and a member of the Legislature."