Estates pledge to reform
gets mixed reviews
Changes in Bishop'sBy Rick Daysog
school policy are 'a welcome step,'
one critic says
A decision by Bishop Estate trustees to reinstate the authority of Kamehameha Schools President Michael Chun and adopt recommendations in a sealed fact-finding report are "the first steps" in the healing process, some critics say.
But others believe the trustees are merely posturing since the courts eventually would have forced them to implement the changes.
Those are the reactions of alumni, parents and community leaders after the estate yesterday announced major reforms of Kamehameha Schools' operations.
"With all the stonewalling they've been doing, this comes as a welcome change," said the Rev. Charles Kekumano, one of the five authors of the critical "Broken Trust" article that prompted Attorney General Margery Bronster to open an investigation into the estate.
"I think this is a welcome step forward, and I commend them for this."
The Bishop Estate yesterday announced major reforms at Kamehameha Schools. In addition to accepting the recommendations of retired Circuit Judge Patrick Yim's fact finding report and confirming President Michael Chun's role in running the schools, the trustees agreed to:
Major changes ahead
Hire nationally recognized experts to conduct a financial and management audit of Kamehameha's Education Group.
Discontinue the practice of designating a lead trustee for the education group, which removes trustee Lokelani Lindsey as head of the schools.
Streamline the school's personnel practices so teacher contracts are issued in a timely manner. The estate was criticized for issuing teacher contracts just days before school began in August.
Reinstate the "talk story" sessions between faculty, staff and trustees to improve communications.
If all of Chun's authority is restored on campus, it will go a long way toward improving student and faculty morale on the Kapalama Heights campus, which has taken some lumps during the ongoing controversy, Kekumano said.
He believes that Chun is a very capable manager who will be able to get faculty members to work with him to get the school back on track.
"The important thing is to do anything right now that will help the children," said Roy Benham, president of the 900-member Oahu chapter of the Kamehameha Alumni Association.
Many, like Walter Heen, a retired judge and "Broken Trust" co-author, thought that trustees would eventually oust Chun, especially after Lindsey released a report criticizing the school president for declining test scores and alleged unauthorized transactions.
Chun responded to Lindsey's charges during a closed-door meeting with trustees Tuesday. He spoke with students yesterday through the campus closed-circuit video system, defending the school's educational track record and the students' academic achievements.
Heen likened the trustees' response to the Yim report to their response to special master Colbert Matsumoto's 120-page report, which faulted them for running up $264 million in losses and loss reserves for the 1993-1994 fiscal year.
After they filed a 90-page rebuttal criticizing Matsumoto's accounting, the estate later agreed to abide by 20 of his 21 recommendations to improve the estate's financial reporting and management practices.
"This indicates that there is a basic awareness on their part they they have been wrong," Heen said.
Beadie Dawson, attorney for an alumni, parent and student group known as Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi, criticized the trustees' reform plan as posturing. She believes that many of the so-called reforms are already contained in Yim's sealed report.
Dawson said she now believes the Yim report will be highly unflattering of the trustees' management of the schools, noting that she previously criticized Yim for disclosing his early findings to trustees in a private meeting.
"They're attempting to get ahead of what will be a very devastating report," she said.
Trustees and Bronster have filed motions with the state courts to unseal the Yim report, but Circuit Judge Collen Hirai has yet to finalize the motions.
UHs Randall Roth electedBy Mike Yuen
president of bar association
University of Hawaii Law Professor Randall Roth, a leading critic on how Bishop Estate trustees have managed the $10 billion charitable trust, has been elected the Hawaii State Bar Association's president for 1999.
Finishing second in the three-candidate race was former city Corporation Counsel Darolyn Lendio, now in private practice. Her law firm, McCorriston Miho Miller Mukai, was hired by the estate after Gov. Ben Cayetano ordered Attorney General Margery Bronster to investigate whether estate trustees have breached their fiduciary responsibilities.
The probe came after the Star-Bulletin published a lengthy essay by Roth and four highly respected native Hawaiian leaders that raised troubling questions regarding the performance of four of the estate's five trustees.
In a telephone interview yesterday from Kansas City, Kan., after the State Bar announced his election, Roth said he believes the Bishop Estate controversy played only a "minor role" in his election.
"I don't think the results tell anything about the situation or my involvement in it," he said.
"Darolyn and I might be related to what's going on with Bishop Estate. But I don't think the election outcome reflects how the public feels about the Bishop Estate controversy."
State Bar officials only announced that Roth was elected vice president for next year and president for 1999. They did not reveal how many votes each candidate received, saying that each candidate had the discretion of revealing those numbers. Lendio confirmed that she finished second but deferred to Roth as to what the vote count was.
Roth said that while his wife telephoned him with the exact numbers, he could not recall what they were.
The third candidate in the race was Melvin Masuda, Hawaii Pacific University associate professor of law.
Bishop Estate Archive