Tuesday, October 21, 1997

Concern over alleged
deletion of Bishop files

THE latest allegation against the trustees of the Bishop Estate adds a disturbing dimension to the attorney general's investigation. This is the report that computer files related to the investigation may have been deleted by a secretary of trustee Lokelani Lindsey. A Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate employee told Deputy Attorney General Lawrence Goya that a colleague had related that such deletions were being made. That prompted Attorney General Margery Bronster to request a temporary restraining order barring estate employees from destroying or removing documents that may be related to the investigation. Circuit Judge Kevin Chang complied with the request.

Bronster commented that she and her team of investigators were "very concerned" about the reported deletion of information and that it raises "some criminal implications."

Indeed it does. This could amount to obstruction of justice.

William McCorriston, a Bishop Estate attorney, denied that files relevant to the attorney general's investigation had been destroyed. He said Lindsey's secretary had merely transferred "a good collection of Hawaiian songs" from a computer hard drive to floppy discs. McCorriston said he would submit a request for cancelation of the restraining order.

Trustee Lindsey, whose secretary allegedly made the deletions, is one of the most heavily criticized of the trustees because of her involvement in the management of the Kamehameha Schools. She is the only professional educator on the board and the other trustees reportedly have left much of the policymaking for the schools to her. Alumni, faculty and parents of students have protested that Lindsey has imposed oppressive policies on the schools. In addition, she has been accused of using estate personnel for her personal affairs.

In order to obtain the restraining order, there was no need for the attorney general to prove that files had in fact been deleted, only to show there was reason to believe that such acts might have been committed and the court should act to prevent a recurrence.

Even in the absence of proof, the attorney general's request reinforces the damaging picture of a board of trustees that has repeatedly rejected criticism and complied grudgingly with the attorney general's requests for documents related to her investigation. It can only drive the trustees' credibility even lower.

Bishop Estate Archive

Schofield cross

IN view of a federal court ruling in a 1988 lawsuit involving a cross at Camp Smith, it seemed highly probable that a similar suit demanding the removal of a cross at Kolekole Pass in Schofield Barracks would succeed. That made the Army's decision to dismantle the 37-foot-high steel cross without fighting the suit a wise one. Maj. Gen. James T. Hill, U.S. Army Hawaii commander, cited the cost of maintaining the cross and the practicality of resisting the lawsuit as factors in the decision.

Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church filed suit last month, charging that the Schofield cross was a "blatant and obvious violation" of the First Amendment prohibition of an establishment of religion.

There have been a number of borderline cases involving religious symbols on government property, but the Camp Smith cross was not one of them. Although the population of the United States is overwhelmingly Christian, the Constitution requires the government to maintain a policy of neutrality toward religion. The display of a massive cross -- the Camp Smith cross was 65 feet and on a military base without comparable symbols for other religions -- appeared to be a blatant violation of the First Amendment.

The issue has nothing to do with discouraging members of the armed forces from practicing Christianity -- or any other religion, for that matter. It is a question of government endorsement of a particular faith, which is prohibited.

Immigrants' sponsors

SPONSORING an immigrant has always meant signing an affidavit taking financial responsibility for the immigrant, but the agreement hasn't been enforced. With immigrants winding up on the welfare rolls while their sponsors did nothing to help them, Americans have become understandably indignant.

Congress took the wrong approach by denying legal immigrants some benefits, which threatened thousands of innocent people, many of them elderly, with destitution. But it also took the right approach by toughening the law on sponsorship.

The immigration law passed last year requires sponsors of immigrants to have earnings exceeding 125 percent of federal poverty levels. At current levels, a would-be sponsor in a four-person household would have to earn $20,000 a year to be eligible. The idea is to ensure that the sponsor is financially capable of supporting the immigrant if necessary, that the immigrant will not become a public charge.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service has published interim regulations that require sponsors to show their income-tax returns and proof of employment, or proof of sufficient assets. Under the rules, sponsors must agree to reimburse federal or state government for any welfare or similar need-based public benefits the sponsored immigrant receives.

This approach is unpopular with some immigration advocates because it will leave many would-be sponsors with low incomes unqualified. However, it is necessary to restore the integrity of a system that has been abused at taxpayers' expense. Having people go on welfare soon after being admitted as immigrants makes a travesty of the program. Sponsoring an immigrant should truly mean taking responsibility for him or her.

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