Judge bars destructionBy Gordon Y.K. Pang
of Bishop Estate files
A Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate employee said a colleague described how computer files were being deleted by trustee Lokelani Lindsey's secretary.
That employee's claims, told to Deputy Attorney General Lawrence Goya, persuaded Judge Kevin Chang Friday to issue an order that bars estate employees from destroying or removing documents that may be connected to an investigation by state Attorney General Margery Bronster.
Chang's order yesterday said it appears that trustees "have been or are in the process of deleting computer files and will probably undertake or continue to do so unless restrained by order of this court."
Estate attorney William McCorriston called the accusations serious, and said his clients will begin investigating Monday.
Chang's order, Bronster stressed, also bars the estate from punishing any employee who gives her office information about documents that may have been destroyed.
Bishop Estate employees agree to strict policies on what they say about the trust when they are first hired.
Bronster is in the midst of an investigation into allegations of mismanagement of the schools and the $10 billion estate's finances on the part of trustees.
While Bronster's office has received a number of documents it subpoenaed from the estate, others are being withheld pending a decision by Chang on whether they should be kept private.
Several other subpoenas involving information requested by Bronster are the subject of court hearings scheduled for next week.
Bronster said she's unhappy that she only received logs of attorney-client records she had subpoenaed from the estate and has filed additional motions seeking the actual records.
No date has been set on Bronster's motion for a preliminary and then permanent injunction.
"We're hoping that any documents that have been removed will be returned and that there be no destruction of any additional information," Bronster said.
She would not go into details about the type of documents that may have been destroyed except that "we are very concerned about certain information that we believe had been deleted from the computers."
Bronster added: "We believe that the destruction of documents relating to an ongoing investigation does raise some criminal implications and we are concerned about that."
Any employee found to have destroyed documents during a court order would be in contempt of court, Bronster said.
She said the employee came forward on Wednesday. She did not say why it took two days for her to file her motion.
McCorriston said he was disturbed that neither he nor his clients were told that Bronster was seeking a restraining order but added that he could appreciate the attorney general's worries.
McCorriston did not see a copy of the motion or accompanying documents until late yesterday.
A destruction of documents, if it happened, "would be in direct violation" of court order and a "troublesome" matter, McCorriston said. "We are going to take any suggestion of destruction of records at Bishop Estate seriously," he said.
He said he didn't think any of the trustees would order documents destroyed.
Bishop Estate Archive
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources expects by month's end to choose from two firms vying to compile an inventory of all public trust lands in Hawaii.
State to decide soon who
will inventory ceded lands
The inventory is the third leg of a 1997 state law that sets the state's yearly ceded-land payments to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs at $15.1 million for the next two years.
Meanwhile, an eight-member commission is working on a revenue formula to pay OHA in the future.
State officials say the inventory would cover 1.2 million acres of public trust land in Hawaii, former government or crown lands that were ceded to the United States upon Hawaii's annexation in 1898 and given back to the Hawaii government upon statehood in 1959.
OHA is being asked to pay for $425,000 of the $1.7 million survey, which must be done by Dec. 31, 1998.
The agency needs an updated inventory of ceded lands so it can prioritize which parcels, if any, should be included in its settlement talks with the state.
Land Division Administrator Dean Y. Uchida told OHA trustees yesterday the two finalists have until Friday to respond to additional questions from a selection committee. The committee would meet the following week to review the responses and set up final interviews, he said.
He declined to identify the firms for trustees.
A former Circuit Court judge ruled last year OHA is entitled to all revenue generated from ceded lands at Honolulu Airport, with estimates of that amount from $500 million to $1.2 billion.
Trustee Clayton Hee had suggested transferring title to potential economic resources such as Diamond Head, the Pali Lookout and Molokini Island to OHA as part of a settlement.
OHA's board, however, has yet to decide what it wants in the negotiations.