An appreciation of the history of
Bishop Estate, and being unable to effect
change from within, led him to
speak out in dissent
By Rick Daysog
Throughout his career, Gerard Jervis has been known as a team player.
So when Jervis publicly accused three fellow Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate trustees of withholding information and icing out him and fellow trustee Oswald Stender on key legal decisions, he caught many by surprise.
His abrupt announcement Tuesday that he would align himself with Stender -- an outsider in Bishop Estate's boardroom -- runs counter to his reputation as a consensus builder and peacemaker, observers said.
What's more, his calls for stronger conflict-of-interest guidelines, reforms of trustees' compensation and more openness in the selection process for trustees represent a departure from current policy.
"(This) is something that's difficult for me to do," Jervis conceded yesterday in an interview with the Star-Bulletin, echoing remarks he made Tuesday in a speech to the Honolulu Rotary Club, when he said: "For myself, it comes with deep personal regret and frustration at not being able to effect change from within -- no matter how hard the effort."
Critics of the Bishop Estate say the about-face underscores the increased scrutiny of the estate, including an investigation by the state attorney general, an audit by the Internal Revenue Service and a court-sanctioned review of the estate's management of its schools.
"I have to look at this as a good sign," said Beadie Dawson, attorney for Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi, which has criticized trustees.
"This may lead to changes in the dynamics of the management of the schools."
Jervis, meanwhile, said he spoke out because he found it unacceptable that some trustees could make decisions without including other trustees. In his speech to the Honolulu Rotary Club on Tuesday, he said such actions "border on manipulations and violation" of a trustee's fiduciary duties.
While many of his efforts may not have been well-known, Jervis has been active in trying to resolve the controversy. During the past 12 weeks, for instance, he said he has met with estate employees, faculty and the general public, seeking their input on the estate.
Jervis, at 48 the estate's youngest trustee, also pushed hard to appoint a court-sanctioned fact-finder to use the probate courts to objectively sort through the allegations of mismanagement at Kamehameha Schools. Jervis said he has high hopes that much can be accomplished by the fact-finder, former Circuit Court Judge Patrick Yim.
Some critics aren't fully convinced that Jervis is sincere, saying he is only jumping ship now that things are getting tough.
But Randall Roth, University of Hawaii law professor and one of five authors of the "Broken Trust" article that prompted Attorney General Margery Bronster to open an investigation into the estate, said he's willing to give Jervis the benefit of the doubt.
"I was very skeptical until (Tuesday)," Roth said. "It's always better late than never."
Jervis began his legal career after graduating from the University of Hawaii Law School in 1979.
During his law school years, then-Gov. George Ariyoshi appointed Jervis to the UH Board of Regents, his first appointment as a public official.
It was in law school that he met former Gov. John Waihee, although they were not classmates. Jervis would later serve on the state Judicial Selection Commission during the Waihee years thanks to then-Senate President and current Bishop Estate trustee Richard Wong, who appointed him to the post in 1987. (The other estate trustees are Henry Peters and Lokelani Lindsey.)
Jervis made his mark in the court room in 1980 when he and then-partner Gary Galiher sued asbestos manufacturers on behalf of about 50 former Pearl Harbor workers. At the time, few attorneys specialized in asbestos suits, and the Galiher and Jervis law firm was the leader in that field in Hawaii.
Later, he and then-partner Ronald Albu represented Kailua homeowners against the city over the 1987 New Year's Eve flood that damaged some 200 homes. The city eventually agreed to pay $5 million to damage victims.
As for his personal life, Jervis and his wife Avis are longtime Kailua residents. Avis Jervis -- who served as a state Representative for Waipahu and Ewa Beach district in the early 1980s -- is active in community organizations such as the Windward Spouse Abuse Shelter and works as an unpaid volunteer in the City Managing Director's office.
Trustee Jervis shares his wife's enthusiasm for community service, having served as a board member of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation.
He also is a former teacher and counselor at the Kalihi-Palama Adult Education Center and was a Hawaii Job Corps Center teacher.
A student of Hawaiian history, Jervis said his awe of the legacy of Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate serves as a driving force in his duties as a trustee.
"I take this institution very seriously when I come to work each day," Jervis said yesterday in his interview.
"It's impossible to work in a place that's been in existence for 113 years and not be struck by its sense of history."
Last year, the stateBy Ian Lind
accused Jervis of
workers comp fraud
Bishop Estate trustee Gerard Jervis was one of a group of lawyers accused of workers compensation fraud in a lawsuit filed by the attorney general last year.
The suit stems from Jervis' work as a lawyer prior to being named a trustee.
Jervis denies the fraud claims and says a settlement has been reached with the state.
According to court records, Jervis represented a former state employee who was injured in a 1989 elevator accident at the state Capitol. A lawsuit against the elevator company was settled after the company agreed to pay $64,500 in damages.
The state, as the self-insured employer, was legally entitled to be reimbursed from the settlement for $98,000 in workers compensation payments to the injured employee, but Jervis and the other attorneys engaged in deception and fraud to block the state from getting its share, the suit alleges.
Other attorneys named in the suit were Jervis' former law partner, Andrew S. Winer; George K. Lindsey Jr., who joined Jervis and Winer in representing the employee; and attorneys Sidney K. Ayabe and Robin R. Horner, representing the Montgomery Elevator Co.
Lindsey is a political and personal associate of former Gov. John Waihee and in recent years has been among the ranks of attorneys doing legal work for Bishop Estate. Ayabe is a prominent attorney who served as president of the Hawaii Bar Association in 1995.
Cynthia Quinn, special assistant to Attorney General Margery Bronster, said she could not comment beyond the facts of the case because of a pending settlement.
Jervis yesterday referred questions to attorney James Duffy, who represents Jervis' former law firm in the case. Jervis is personally represented by former Attorney General Warren Price, records show.
Duffy said, "There was no evidence of fraud at all."
Instead, Duffy said Jervis had simply been unable to get a large enough settlement from the elevator company to pay back the state's workers compensation lien and also provide something for the injured worker and his family.
"Under the law, the workers compensation carrier is entitled to be paid off the top of any settlement, so in this case everything would have gone to the state," Duffy said.
Duffy said in most similar cases the insurance carrier agrees to take as little as 10 cents on the dollar "just to get something rather than take the risk of going to trial and getting nothing."
In this case, Duffy said, the state agreed to reduce its claim by one-third but would not compromise further.
In order to salvage something for the injured worker, the attorneys involved "were willing to make this settlement without the state's approval and then just run the risk of this kind of dispute later."
The settlement was set up so the damages would be paid to the injured employee's wife while the employee got nothing and would not have to reimburse the state.
The state didn't have an opportunity to object because it wasn't told of the settlement. Instead, Ayabe and Jervis requested that the settlement be sealed and remain confidential, and Judge Marjorie Manuia agreed. The state was unable to get information about the settlement because of Manuia's secrecy order, and "met with strong opposition and unceasing resistance from Defendants each and every time it filed a document, made a request, argued its position, or took any action to protect or assert its Workers Compensation Recovery Rights," the suit claims.
Duffy denied the secrecy was unusual.
"It is a very common thing," Duffy said. "In almost every case of professional or product liability, even automobile-type accidents, the settlements are sealed to prevent anybody from getting in and misusing the information. The sealing thing is pretty common in the civil court system, rightly or wrongly."
The state eventually appealed, and in September 1995, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the settlement "was invalid from the beginning" because it bypassed the state's rights under workers compensation laws.
The original case against the elevator company was reinstated and is now also pending, along with the state's fraud suit against Jervis and the others.
Duffy referred to the matter as "a send-the-message case."
"I don't think it was really about Gerry Jervis or his law firm. It was about the attorney general saying, 'We are no longer going to sit back on these cases and are going to vigorously pursue what is owed us.'
"She's trying to make sure that everybody pays their fair share."
Gerard Jervis at a glanceAge: 48
Title: Trustee of Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate
Appointed: November 1994
Term expires: December 2018
1996 salary: $840,109
Education: University of Hawaii, William Richardson School of Law
Outside interests: President, White Hat Development Corp.
Hobbies: Studying Hawaiian history and culture
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