Friday, September 12, 1997

State must fight
Bishop trustees for records

THE Bishop Estate trustees are going to make the state fight to obtain the records Attorney General Margery Bronster wants for her investigation. That's not surprising. The state has no choice but to do battle if that is what the trustees want.

Commenting on a letter from a Bishop Estate lawyer saying it will seek a court order to restrict her office's investigation, Bronster said, "What I am concerned about is that this is going to become war in the courts, a war in which the estate is going to want to know everything we're looking into and why, before we get the opportunity to actually pursue these things. You cannot run an investigation that way."

OK, let's have that war, since there seems to be no choice. Nobody expected the trustees to willingly hand over incriminating material. All along their style has been maximum secrecy, minimal disclosure. But this time the trustees have an adversary they can't intimidate or outspend. The state has the resources to fight them in the courts as long as it takes.

Bronster's preliminary report to the governor on her investigation is necessarily inconclusive. But she does call "credible" the allegations that the intent of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop is not being implemented and that there may have been breaches of fiduciary duty by a trustee. That's a crucial finding.

One of the allegations mentioned in the report is that trustee Henry Peters negotiated on behalf of a group purchasing an asset from the estate -- a reference to a country club near Washington, D.C. in which the estate invested. The report described this in the category of "trustees acting in a conflict position."

Also cited was the allegation that trustee Lokelani Lindsey used estate assets to help improve her personal residence, which, "if true, is a clear fundamental breach."

Undoubtedly the trustees' resistance will prolong the inquiry as the issue of access to records is fought out in the courts. This is crucial to the task of acquiring evidence that would justify bringing charges against the trustees. The state must see this through.

Of course it would make the task much easier if the four trustees who have betrayed the trust placed in them, as detailed in the "Broken Trust" article published in the Star-Bulletin last month, would resign, as they should. Unfortunately they seem determined to brazen it out. But in the end they may be removed by the court -- a far greater humiliation.

Abraham Akaka

ABRAHAM Kahikina Akaka, Hawaii's most prominent clergyman, embodied the spirit of aloha. His death at 80 deprives this community of a symbol of love and brotherhood that is sorely needed in a time of increasing tensions.

He became pastor of Kawaiahao Church in 1957 and served until his retirement in 1984. He had remained active in retirement, collapsing Tuesday after conducting a service at Hawaiian Memorial Park in Kaneohe.

He was fond of comparing the world's races to the strings of a ukulele. His point was that people of all races can work together beautifully when they are in harmony. It was a theme particularly suited to Hawaii with its various racial, ethnic and religious groups, but he meant it to refer to all peoples everywhere.

He gave the address at the Hawaii statehood dedication service on March 13, 1959 -- an address that was reprinted in anthologies and in 30,000 leaflets.

Abraham Akaka knew Hawaii's political and business elite, but he also knew the beach boys and the ordinary people. He seemed always available to officiate at dedications, ground-breakings and grand openings, and he was in great demand for such ceremonies. In a way no one can duplicate, he was Hawaii.

Tobacco tax credit

A last-minute change in the balanced budget and tax bill gave the tobacco industry a $50 billion tax credit against the proposed $368 billion settlement negotiated by state attorneys general in the event the settlement is approved by Congress. Under the original proposal, an increase in tobacco taxes was to be used for children's health care. The change was widely criticized, and rightly so, as an outrageous example of tobacco industry influence on Congress.

Now the Senate has responded to the criticism and voted to repeal the tobacco tax credit. However, the fate of the repeal in the House is uncertain.

The House should follow through and scrap the tax credit. To let it stand would be to perpetuate a fraud and destroy the credibility of the proposed tobacco settlement.

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