90 percent back
Bishop inquiry

But only half expect to see
any change, a poll finds

By Jim Witty

Hawaii residents overwhelmingly support Gov. Ben Cayetano's call for an investigation of Bishop Estate, but only half think there will be many changes as a result.

Poll Graphic And 74 percent of the 420 registered voters in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin/KHNL NBC Hawaii News 8 Poll favor a five-year term for trustees of the charitable trust. Just 16 percent approve of the current setup in which trustees serve until age 70.

The statewide telephone poll was conducted Sept. 11-14 by Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research Inc. of Columbia, Md. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Nearly 90 percent of the respondents said it was a good idea for Cayetano to instruct Attorney General Margery Bronster to look into allegations of management irregularities by trustees, and 74 percent said they believe she will conduct a fair and impartial investigation.

But only half of the respondents said they believe many changes will result from the inquiry.

One-quarter of those responding said the inquiry won't produce many changes, and another quarter said they aren't sure.

Al Saunders, a 56-year-old Haleiwa construction superintendent, said he hopes the investigation is fair.

Poll Graphic "It certainly won't be impartial," the 20-year Oahu resident said. "I don't think that's possible in Hawaii. But because this is so public, I think it will be fair."

Elynore Hambleton of Honolulu is optimistic.

"I like what the attorney general has said. I'm very pleased," Hambleton said. "I don't think she's treating it like a witch hunt. There are problems there xxx I just don't want Bishop Estate to go down in flames."

A majority of poll respondents 64 percent -- also said they believe Bishop Estate has too much power in the state. Twenty-two percent said the estate doesn't wield too much power, and 15 percent were not sure.

"I think years ago they might have had the same power, but they didn't seem to abuse it so much," said Pennie Zaremba, 53, of Kailua-Kona. "I think something has gone wrong along the way. Those who are supposed to benefit -- the students -- are not.

"The trustees get paid too much, and they're forgetting what the trust is all about. The trust is for the children. They've lost sight of that."

Money but no control

Kevin Higa of Hawaii Kai doesn't believe Bishop Estate has too much power.

"They have a lot of money, but I don't think they have any control over the government," said Higa, 36, whose children are part-Hawaiian. "I'd like to see more Hawaiians have an opportunity; I'd like to see the school expand. But I'm not sure if the state should be involved. You'd like to see them conduct their business without all this scrutiny."

The issue of whether Supreme Court justices should continue to appoint Bishop Estate trustees is not as clear cut.

Of the voters polled, 48 percent said the justices should stop appointing trustees, and 32 percent favored the status quo.

"I can only hope it's taken out of the Supreme Court," said Hambleton. "It's a political football."

Zaremba wasn't sure. "If not them, who?" she said.

On the question of the trustees' terms, 74 percent said they favor a five-year limit, 16 percent said they want the retirement age kept at 70, and 10 percent weren't sure.

"I have no problem with the age because I know other trusts follow that same rule of thumb," noted Lei Medeiros, a 1983 Kamehameha Schools graduate. "But I'm hoping there can be more checks and balances in the future. You need control. It's not their money. They're doing it as a favor for someone else, and they should be held accountable."

Shorter terms?

Robert Gandia of Kauai would like to see trustees serve shorter terms.

"I think they should serve a five-year term to keep them honest," Gandia said. "Give them five years with a review every year to check their performance.

"And $800,000 is too much. I know guys who work harder and get paid less."

Bishop Estate Archive

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Community]
[Info] [Letter to Editor] [Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1997 Honolulu Star-Bulletin