Rep. Tom beholden
to Bishop Estate?
He works as an estate attorney andBy Gordon Y.K. Pang
heads the Judiciary Committee
Four Kauai Hawaiians want state Rep. Terrance Tom to return the $4,000 a month he's been getting from Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate for legal work.
Tom, who heads the House Judiciary Committee, said he sees no conflict with his role as a legislator. He said he won't return any money.
The four sent a letter to Tom's office earlier this week.
"Politics has been in this so-called controversy right from the beginning," said Paul Lemke, a rancher and 1942 Kamehameha graduate. "(Tom) is just another cog of the wheel."
James Burgess, a retired Hawaiian Tel supervisor, said: "I just don't believe that that's the proper thing to do. I don't believe that kind of money should be expended for that type of services."
Burgess attended Kamehameha for one year, while two sisters, two sons and a grandson graduated from the school.
"This money is income," said retired attorney Arthur Trask. "He is receiving it, and he knows damn well the laws in the books. This is corruption of the worst order. That money should go to the children."
The fourth person signing the letter was Angeline Locey.
Tom said he keeps his jobs as attorney and legislator separate.
"As an attorney, my job is to represent clients," Tom said.
"I answer legal questions for them. I've earned every cent I've made."
He noted that he gives legal representation to people charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, "yet I help pass some of the toughest laws in those areas."
Tom has spent 15 years on the Legislature, "at least six" as an attorney with the estate.
He said he's done repossessions for the estate, "cases like if a person is late on a lease rent. . . . It's very ordinary types of cases."
In regard to legislation, he said, "I cannot recall being called by them to do anything for them."
"That doesn't get rid of the conflict, even if he provided bona fide services, not as chairman of the Judiciary Committee," said attorney Beadie Kanahele Dawson, who represents Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi, the group that has raised questions about mismanagement of the estate.
Dawson said Tom has been "a man of integrity" in her past dealings with him and that she was surprised he's refusing to acknowledge any conflict.
Estate spokeswoman Elisa Yadao said, "We do business with Terry Tom as we do business with many lawyers in this town, and there are many other companies who do business with a number of attorneys, some of whom are legislators."
"This situation is not completely unique to us," she said.
Gov. Ben Cayetano is contemplating introducing legislation that would cap the pay of Bishop Estate trustees, and has suggested that Tom excuse himself if such a bill reaches the Judiciary Committee.
Tom said he doesn't know what he will do since no such legislation has been introduced. But if told by House leadership to excuse himself, "I would abide by whatever decision is made," he said.
Yim ends first phase of probeBy Gordon Y.K. Pang
into schools' management
Former Circuit Judge Patrick Yim says he's interviewed more than 1,000 people so far in his investigation into the management and administration of Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate.
During the summer, Yim was appointed fact-finder by the Probate Court at the behest of estate trustees to look into allegations of mismanagement.
Yim yesterday said in a news release that he is concluding his initial interviews and will now focus on "verifying and analyzing the substantial input" he has received.
"He's taken notes from everyone interviewed in person, on the phone and questionnaires from the people who returned them," said Kelly Bryant, Yim's administrative assistant.
Bryant said "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds" of people turned in questionnaires.
Yim said he expects to have his inquiry completed before the end of the year. Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi, the organization raising questions about estate leadership, had asked the judge to finish by the end of the month.
On Aug. 29, Yim turned in an initial report to the Probate Court stating that he would submit a follow-up on Oct. 31. Bryant said she did not know if Yim is still sticking to that timetable.
Yim's report is one of several being closely monitored by observers of the $10 billion estate during a year of discontent with students and parents publicly grousing about school micromanagement by trustees.
State Attorney General Margery Bronster is investigating allegations of financial misdeeds by trustees.
Meanwhile, attorney Colbert Matsumoto, assigned by the Probate Court as KSBE master, is producing a report on the estate's fiscal matters over the past two years.
By Jim Witty
City to resume Hawaii Kai
Mayor Jeremy Harris and the City Council are set to resume condemnation proceedings on a Hawaii Kai condominium after a federal appeals court upheld the city's mandatory lease-to-fee conversion ordinance.
Proceedings for residents of the Kuapa Isle project could begin as early as next week, following a council vote, said Councilman John Henry Felix.
Harris and the Council's Policy Committee agreed that the city should start because of a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last month that the law is valid.
Bishop Estate, which owns the land under the project, has asked the court's full panel to reconsider the decision, arguing the ordinance forces them to sell their land.
"Thanks to the ruling, the committee members now feel more comfortable proceeding with the process," Felix said yesterday.
"It appears it will enjoy the votes of seven or perhaps eight Council members in support."
Bishop Estate had no comment yesterday.
Set for condemnation are 166 units in the Kuapa Isle project; five other developments are waiting in the wings.
"It's a wonderful move on the part of the city," said Bob Voege, president of the 8,000-member Hale Coalition, a lessee group.
"It's a big day for lessees in the state of Hawaii."
Realtor Mike Pang agreed.
"Our leasehold system is really misdesigned because it displaces people from their homes," he said. "The win-win way out of here is to sell the fee. Implementation (of the ordinance) will generate negotiations."
Short of that, the city tries to mediate impasses.
The last recourse is condemnation and a court-mandated price for the converted land.
The Council approved the condo law in 1994, but stalled the process until the legal challenge was decided.
At Kuapa Isle, which applied to the city for conversion in 1995, 68 owners have successfully completed sales with the landowner and 166 remain leasehold, Pang said.
The ordinance is based on a 1967 law that requires conversion for land under single-family homes.
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