Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Thursday, August 14, 1997

‘Broken Trust’ report
was sorely needed

IF you haven't seen the "Broken Trust" essay on the Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate in last Saturday's Star-Bulletin, buy, beg or borrow a copy or turn to the Internet under http//starbulletin.com.

It may be the most needed piece of investigative journalism done in my 51 years in Hawaii. Its subject is at the hard core of things here.

Even with imperfections that its targets will seize on, it elevates the public debate to new levels of awareness. The critics will be given print space, too.

The authors aren't journalists. Instead they are five leading citizens of Hawaii, four of them Hawaiian. Their shared concern makes the "Broken Trust" indictment even stronger.

They document a collusive web linking the estate trustees, the justices of the state Supreme Court, the Judicial Selection Commission and former Gov. John Waihee. They believe it has detracted from KS/BE education by squandering many millions elsewhere.

They warn the trustees and justices they could be personally liable for their shenanigans. Supreme Court justices, they say, may have lost the immunity they have as a court by stressing that on estate appointments they acted as individuals.

The writers identify the possibilities of Internal Revenue Service intervention, a court suit by estate beneficiaries or a probe into wrongdoing by Governor Cayetano and Attorney General Margery Bronster. Bronster is shielded from firing except by the governor and Senate acting jointly.

University of Hawaii Law Professor Randall W. Roth deals in estate and trust law. He is dedicated to "the importance of lively and informed public discussion." This led him to publish with no profit to himself two "Price of Paradise" books including informed guest articles and more recently to hosting a "Price of Paradise" public radio show where guests usually go pro-con on issues.

Last Sunday's was different. Roth and two of his co-authors of "Broken Trust" met with listeners via phone lines jammed throughout. Senior federal Judge Samuel P. King grew up in politics in Hawaii as the son of a former governor and delegate to Congress. He pitched in along with former state Intermediate Court of Appeals Judge Walter Heen, also from one of Hawaii's most famous political families.

There was a thrill among them and their listeners that at last key details of a long-suspected, long-rumored major story had been nailed down and laid before the public. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin was offered the story only after Honolulu Advertiser Editor Jim Gatti twice passed on opportunities to put it in his Sunday paper with a much-larger circulation. Star-Bulletin Managing Editor David Shapiro and Editorial Page Editor Diane Chang jumped at it. Their staff hustled it into print. Despite its length, every sentence is telling.

The Advertiser, having missed its chance, followed on Sunday with interviews with U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye and Hawaii state Rep. Ed Case. These further reinforced the case against the KS/BE intrigues and bumbling.

ROTH will stay off the 8 a.m. show of Sunday, Aug. 24. The trustees and justices can use it to respond. Their moderator will be Peter Adler, one of the state's best mediators.

Roth did the spadework for the article, no easy matter since even court-appointed masters have had trouble digging out details. The estate claims it is heavily monitored but that's deceptive. It doesn't put out any more data than required. It makes even that hard to get. Its trustees rebuff most interview requests.

All four of Roth's co-signers fully endorsed the project. Each made major contributions. Besides Judges King and Heen they were Gladys Brandt, for years one of our most highly regarded Hawaiian educators, and Msgr. Charles Kekumano, who heads the Liliuokalani Trust, another royal trust like KS/BE but smaller.

Give light and the people will find their own way, says a newspaper motto. Our new Fabulous Five have given light, thrillingly.

See Also August 13, 1997:
Bishop Trustees face state inquiry

A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.

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