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AG expects inquiry
plan this week

Bronster finds cause for a state probe
into Bishop Estate trustees

Star-Bulletin staff

State Attorney General Margery Bronster says she will give Gov. Ben Cayetano a game plan this week calling for an investigation of Bishop Estate that will likely take months to complete.

Bronster made the statement following a two-hour meeting in her office yesterday with the authors of a newspaper opinion piece that was highly critical of the estate's trustees and the manner in which they are chosen. She called the session a "tremendous step forward" in her inquiry.

"I do think that a lot of the allegations that have come out, as well as a lot of the things that I have learned, suggest that there is a valid basis for looking into these allegations," she said.

Cayetano last week instructed Bronster to make a preliminary inquiry into the estate - the largest private landowner in Hawaii - to determine whether a wider investigation is needed.

The attorney general did not detail to reporters the specific areas of a broader investigation, but said it would include some issues addressed by the authors and others that Cayetano raised.


Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop


She did not eliminate the possibility of hiring a special investigator, saying she is still looking at the impact an investigation would have on her staff.

Bronster hoped to have a similar meeting with the five trustees.

The authors, meanwhile, said the state Probate Court, which oversees estate affairs, should appoint interim trustees during the investigation "who will not be buffeted by criticism or hindered by the inquiry."

The replacements would be named based on recommendations by a panel of community leaders that includes Hawaiians, they said.

Cayetano, who was at the Mililani-Waena Elementary School last night for one of his town meetings, said it was premature to discuss the suggestion. He did not say when a final decision on an investigation would be made. "We need to see what's there, and if there is some substance to the allegations, we need to look into it ourselves."

A spokewoman for the estate promised it would cooperate with an investigation, but said no compelling reasons have been given for the trustees to step aside. "They have been hard at work, and while other people may have been distracted, the trustees have not," said spokeswoman Elisa Yadao.

Bronster met with Gladys Brandt, a former principal of Kamehameha School for Girls; Walter Heen, a retired state appeals judge and former state legislator and city councilman; Msgr. Charles Kekumano, a retired Catholic priest and chairman of the Queen Liliuokalani Trust, and Randall Roth, a University of Hawaii law school professor.

Samuel King, a senior U.S. District judge, participated by telephone from Portland, Ore., where he is attending a conference.

The five are the authors of "Broken Trust," which was published by the Star-Bulletin Aug. 9 and spurred Cayetano into taking action. They continued to stand behind the accuracy of their piece.

Kekumano said he was "more than pleased" with the meeting, and that an investigation is needed to settle debates over the estate, a $10 billion charitable trust that runs Kamehameha Schools for children of Hawaiian ancestry.

"There are so many questions on the part of the faculty and on part of the alumni, and so somebody should do something about it. So it's certainly the best way to do it legally and not just have everybody carping."

Roth said he was "elated" that Bronster appeared to have a clear understanding of the issues. She seemed pleased to hear details from the authors about their sources, and their ability to substantiate some of the more serious allegations, he said. "The thought that I had was that it's likely (the trustees) will resign once they truely understand what they're up against. I think they've been slow to understand the severity of the charges made in our article."

He said Bronster was particularly interested in Brandt's and Kekumano's service on a 1994 blue-ribbon panel that nominated people to fill a trustee position. The list was requested by state Supreme Court justices who appoint trustees, but eventually was ignored. The authors implied politics was partly behind the decision, a charge the judges have denied.

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