Tuesday, September 23, 1997

City personal service
contracts need review

MAYOR Harris ought to stop the nitpicking over the City Charter and cooperate with City Council members calling for more accountability for personal service contracts. These involve workers who are not permanent employees of the city. There are currently 173 people working under such contracts. Council members complain that some employees' pay is too high. And because some contracts are renewed year after year, it amounts to permanent employment.

Council Budget Chairman Duke Bainum said the top 10 personal service contracts raise questions, "and that's why we want additional oversight and reporting mechanisms." Bainum noted that Sally Cravalho, the city's leasehold conversion program administrator, receives $52,000 a year, about $10,000 more than if she were in a civil service position. Her contract has been renewed annually since 1993.

The Council voted Wednesday to override a Harris veto of a bill putting stricter oversight on the awards of personal service contracts. Corporation Counsel David Arakawa said the new law violates the City Charter and the administration would ignore it.

But the voters are not going to appreciate the administration's defiance of the new law, regardless of who is right about its consistency with the charter. The administration's position gives the impression that it is trying to hide something.

A healthier approach would be to cooperate fully with the Council in reviewing any questionable contracts and terminating those that cannot be justified.

Bishop Estate trustees

A member of the Board of Trustees of the Bishop Estate has departed from the trustees' policy of stonewalling in response to criticism and admitted that there are problems with the trustees' policies.

In an article in the Sunday Honolulu Advertiser, Gerard Jervis declared that the trustees must stop "any actions by trustees that create the perception of conflict or impropriety" in their investment practices.

Jervis also acknowledged that the atmosphere at the Kamehameha Schools is "sometimes far from conducive to the education of our children ... a continuing culture of divisiveness and authoritarianism that distracts from the job at hand."

Moreover, Jervis proposed that the trustees reduce their compensation to a level acceptable to the community.

In all these respects, Jervis appeared to respond to criticism in the "Broken Trust" article published by the Star-Bulletin and from other sources. The article prompted the governor to order an investigation of the trustees' investment practices and their compliance with fiduciary duties. Another investigation has been undertaken by retired Judge Patrick Yim of the administration of the schools.

The article appeared shortly after the trustees' newest attorney, William McCorriston, accused the news media of a "rush to judgment" on the charges against the trustees. Yet Jervis admitted that there are serious problems in the administration of the Bishop Estate. So much for the "rush to judgment."

Jervis said he submitted the article before showing it to his colleagues on the board. It was not clear whether it reflected an attempt to separate himself from the trustees who have been most heavily criticized -- Lokelani Lindsey, Henry Peters and Richard Wong -- or whether it represents their views as well as his own. The fifth trustee, Oswald Stender, has dissented from board decisions and has been spared criticism.

In any case, the points made by Jervis are well taken, if belatedly so. If the article represents a turnabout in the trustees' attitude after much arrogant refusal to accept criticism, it is welcome. If it represents a break between Jervis and the rest of the majority on the board, the question should be why didn't he speak out sooner. Whatever the answer, the article should not be permitted to stall the investigations.

Bishop Estate Archive

Religious restrictions

BORIS Yeltsin vetoed a bill restricting religious freedom in Russia last summer but is expected to sign a measure that differs only slightly from the original one. The president should reconsider.

The measure would prohibit religious groups from disseminating their beliefs if they had operated in Russia for fewer than 15 years. This would affect Roman Catholics, Baptists, Mormons and Pentacostalists, among others.

Defenders of the law said it is needed to guard against dangerous sects that prey on the unsophisticated. After 75 years of Soviet control, when religion was strictly limited, the defenders say, Russian people are still vulnerable to religious fanaticism.

However, the bill is so sweeping that it cannot reasonably be justified on that basis. It appears to be essentially a shield for the dominant Orthodox Church. Yeltsin should again demonstrate his commitment to freedom of worship and resist the heavy pressure to sign this measure.

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