Saturday, December 13, 1997
Saying she breached her duty and was unfit to serve, Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate trustees Oswald Stender and Gerard Jervis called for the resignation of trustee Lokelani Lindsey, in what could lead to a prolonged court battle.
In a harsh letter, the two trustees said Lindsey "engaged in a pattern of irresponsible and reckless behavior" and created "an atmosphere of fear" among faculty members and staff.
Jervis and Stender said that if Lindsey does not step down voluntarily, they would petition the court for her removal.
The letter echoed some of the findings of retired Circuit Judge Patrick Yim, a court-appointed fact finder, who sharply criticized Lindsey's stewardship of the Kapalama Heights campus. Yim's report on the management of Kamehameha Schools was unsealed by Circuit Judge Colleen Hirai yesterday.
The two trustees faulted Lindsey for releasing a confidential report to discredit schools President Michael Chun. The report criticized Chun for declining test scores, but Jervis and Stender said it was misleading and hurt student morale.
"You willfully engaged in reckless and irresponsible action that casts serious doubt on your judgment and fitness to continue serving," they said.
Lindsey said she would not step down, and she stands by her report.
Keith Matsuoka, an attorney for Lindsey, added that Jervis and Stender's charges are "groundless" and that Lindsey would fight any petition for her removal "very vigorously." Jervis and Stender are making "a play for publicity," he added.
"There's no doubt in my mind that we've been targeted," Lindsey said. "Sometimes I wonder if it's because I'm a woman on the board.
"Sometimes I wonder just what their motive is."
Lindsey received support from the two other trustees, Henry Peters and board Chairman Richard "Dickie" Wong.
"It's unfortunate it's in the press," Peters said. "I'm looking forward to the discussion in the boardroom. That's where it should be."
State Attorney General Margery Bronster, who is investigating allegations of trustees' mismanagement, said it is premature to say if her office would join in any petition to remove trustees. Bronster said her office plans to interview Lindsey today under subpoena as part of the state inquiry.
"One thing we have to be aware of is that if trustees are aware of any wrongdoing by fellow trustees, it is their obligation to take action," Bronster said.
Calls for a fellow trustee's resignation are without precedent in the estate's 113-year history.
Some legal experts believe such a petition could be tied up in court for a prolonged period.
Ed Halbach, one of the nation's leading trust experts and a former dean of the University of California-Berkeley's Boalt Law School, said it is up to the court to decide whether a trustee has breached duties.
Halbach said he expects any removal petition to be contested and appealed.
Halbach, who served as a consultant to special master Colbert Matsumoto in his review of the estate's operations for the 1993-1995 fiscal years, said trustees can be removed if a court finds them in serious or frequent breaches of their fiduciary duties.
Those violations may include self-dealing on trust business or investing frequently in unwise ventures, he said.
Randy Roth, University of Hawaii law professor and co-author of the critical "Broken Trust" essay that helped launch Bronster's investigation, believes the charges against Lindsey are so serious that the court would have to take immediate action.
Roth and other estate critics, like Beadie Dawson -- attorney for the parent-alumni group Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi, which is urging all trustees to step down -- believe that Yim's report lists many instances where Lindsey allegedly breached her fiduciary duties.
According to Yim, Lindsey fostered an environment of favoritism and inappropriately used her authority.
She also hurt school morale by interrupting teachers at class time, publicly reprimanding staff and insisting on reviewing most school projects, according to Yim.
Lindsey said Yim's report presented a one-sided and narrow glimpse into the controversy.
The report focused only on her conduct as lead trustee for education and not on the conditions she was asked by other trustees to oversee, Lindsey said.
Fact Finder: Lindsey wielded
inappropriate use of
By Mary Adamski
The Bishop Estate trustees need lessons on how to fulfill the education-directed goal of Bernice Pauahi Bishop's will, said fact finder Patrick Yim.
The board must abandon the practice of having one person act as the lead trustee for the education group of the estate, Yim said.
And trustees must act to "restore the sense of orderly governance and respect for appropriate authority" at the school system.
One example of undermining the system was interference by some trustees to ensure certain children were admitted to Kamehameha Schools, Yim found. Admissions officials were told that a red dot beside a name on an application guaranteed admission.
There weren't any major surprises in the report, which was made public yesterday by the Probate Court.
When Yim concluded that there was a "campus environment of control, oppressiveness, favoritism and arbitrary action," he affirmed what faculty, students, parents and alumni have said in this year of challenges to the Bishop Estate trustees.
His recommendations -- ranging from hiring an expert for a management audit of the school to trustees' relinquishing their reserved parking spaces on campus -- were pre-empted in the past week by trustees' announcement of reforms based on guidelines Yim shared with them Nov. 10.
The bulk of the fact finder's criticism focused on trustee Lokelani Lindsey, who functioned as lead trustee for matters at the schools. Yim found that "management by intimidation, as demonstrated by the lead trustee's inappropriate use of her authority, is inappropriate in any educational setting."
"The fact-finder finds that although certain questions regarding Kamehameha School programs, etc. need to be raised, the nature of the lead trustee's inquiry, her lack of appreciation for the power and impact of her position as a trustee, her inquiry at any organizational level regardless of the organization chart, the volatility of her personality and her rash utterances, have all combined to create an oppressive and hostile atmosphere on campus," Yim wrote.
"These chilling practices have in turn created instability which has permeated all levels of the Kamehameha Schools."
His top recommendation was that she relinquish or be removed from direct control and oversight of the school. Lindsey did step down from that position earlier this week.
He also urged that the board engage a qualified expert for a management audit of the educational institution.
"How many more people do we need to look at us?" responded Toni Lee, president of Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi, a group of students, parents and alumni whose protests about board management of the school set off the scrutiny.
"We don't need any more people to tell us what's wrong. We have this report and the attorney general's investigation. We don't need to spend any more of the money that should go into the children, into putting that school back on track," Lee said.
Yim said one area where other unnamed trustees shared the blame with Lindsey was when they "exerted influence over the elementary school admission process so that the admission committees have been instructed by the admission director that names with red dots are to be admitted regardless of qualifications."
Trustee Henry Peters said he had never heard of a "red-dot" policy. "It's unfortunate that he (Yim) hadn't investigated any of the details," Peters said.
Beadie Dawson, attorney for Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi, said the "red dot" method of admissions "is probably one of the most serious breaches."
"The meddling with admissions is inexcusable. Admissions are clearly an administrative matter. Whether related to a trustee or connected in some way ... you're being admitted for reasons that had nothing to do with the admissions criteria," Dawson said.
Another exception to the rules that Yim reported was that Lindsey and trustee Gerard Jervis undermined the school's "zero tolerance" policy toward drugs and theft by intervening on behalf of children of relatives or friends.
Jervis acknowledged that he once intervened on behalf of a student who was an orphan. "I believe there was a theft of an aloha shirt involved. That student was disciplined for that action."
Lindsey said she was summoned when a family member was accused of violating a zero-tolerance rule, and the student was expelled.
Yim faulted the entire board for failing to guide or communicate with schools President Michael Chun when it charged him last year with preparing a strategic plan for the next century. The plan was rejected by the board this year as inadequate.
Yim's recommendations include:
Schedule a training and education session within two months for board members to be taught by a national expert in academic administration. Continue such sessions on a regular basis "to reconfirm the proper roles and practices of the trustees in support of the trusting relationship that should exist" between them, the schools ohana and the president they chose.
Audit functions and programs as a beginning of a collaborative effort by trustees and the schools ohana to create a strategic plan to guide the schools in the future.
Adopt a policy of making teacher contract offers at least 180 days before a school year begins.
Adopt and support an internal mechanism by which grievances, suggestions, complaints and recommendations can be raised, reviewed and resolved.
Elevate the position of president of the education group to a "chief education officer" -- higher than the principle executives of the estate's other divisions -- to be held accountable for management of Kamehameha Schools in collaboration with and at the direction of the full board of trustees.
State Attorney General Margery Bronster is continuing her investigation into alleged mismanagement by trustees.
"The fact finder did a very thorough job," Bronster said.
The report "shows or suggests that there are a lot of instances where the best interests of the beneficiaries was not what was driving certain actions of the estate."
Na Pua's Dawson, however, said the report did not go far enough.
"I interpret the original order (for the fact finder) in a much different way. He was to look into the administration of the trust as well as the administration of the school," Dawson said.
"I don't think they can be separated. If they don't have sufficient revenues, they are clearly affected. It's not like they're two separate entities."
Lindsey criticizesBy Mary Adamski
fact finders report
Bishop Estate trustee Lokelani Lindsey, whose conduct was the subject of much of the fact-finder report unsealed yesterday, criticized the effort as one-sided.
Fact finder Patrick Yim listened to complaints, rumors and innuendo from employees, students and alumni against Lindsey's alleged micromanagement of Kamehameha Schools but did not inquire into possible flaws in the administration or reasons for her hands-on approach, she said.
"Balanced objectivity would have produced a range of opinions on the so-called controversy about my role as lead trustee ... but there is no such balance," Lindsey said.
But, she said: "We embrace the recommendations of the judge. I think he made some really good recommendations, despite the narrative, and I would hope that we as trustees would seriously discuss them and take action on a lot them. I look forward to solving the problems."
Lindsey filed a 36-page response with the court, addressing the observations and recommendations in Yim's 46-page report item by item.
Yim reported that Lindsey assumed final authority over all hiring at the school and directly supervised the curriculum. In the curriculum guide for kindergartners, there is an instruction that kindergartners be able to identify the five trustees.
Lindsey responded that she oversaw creation of hiring guidelines and did not review applicants, only positions. As to the requirement of kindergartners, she was "unaware of who implemented it and when it was developed."
Yim said the lead trustee required that all communications between the school staff and parents, teachers, agencies, governments and the public be approved by her. She also has approval over advertisements, programs, fliers and T-shirts.
True, said Lindsey, but he "overlooks all justification. In addition to matters which are inappropriate, failure to adequately oversee all communications has resulted in inter alia (among other things), adverse judicial determinations and embarrassing situations for the school."
The fact finder said Lindsey instituted numerous reviews of the education system. The result of her reviews was to delay projects and render them futile.
"This has not only resulted in needless anxiety, frustration and disappointment on the part of teachers, staff, alumni, parents and students, but ... additional costs have been incurred."
Lindsey said she brought in distinguished resource people, most of whom were volunteers, who "have proven invaluable. It is ironic that on one hand trustee Lindsey is chastised for imposing on faculty time. On the other, she is chastised for failing to utilize faculty."
Yim said "intemperate, inappropriate and at times ill-advised comments of the lead trustee have had a negative impact on the morale of the teachers and staff." He said her remarks are "not only disrespectful and demoralizing but are inappropriate coming from an individual charged with serving as a leader and model."
He gave as examples: "Teachers are overpaid and underworked. Everyone on campus is incompetent. Teachers are spoiled. The trustees decided that the school should be college prep by the flipping of a coin."
Lindsey said she did not make the remarks attributed to her.
The fact-finder report said schools President Michael Chun is viewed as a scapegoat for problems "even though in reality he may bear some of the responsibility."
He said an us-vs.-them mentality pervades the campus because of the dual leadership. It "is the main reason that factions exist and divided loyalties are, unfortunately, the norm."
The response: "Trustee Lindsey has relinquished her role as lead trustee of the education group."
Dear Mrs. Lindsey,
Text of letter from
Stender and Jervis
After months of investigation, thorough review, and painful soul-searching, we have arrived at the sad and certain conclusion that you must relinquish your position as Trustee of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate.
It is clear that you have consistently engaged in a pattern of irresponsible and reckless behavior. You have irresponsibly spent Estate funds. Your practice of abusive and self-serving attacks on respected teachers and administrators has created an atmosphere of fear among staff and faculty, and anxiety among students and parents. You have even threatened and intimidated individual students.
But in the last week, it has become shockingly apparent that you are willing to put your own personal defense ahead of the interests, the feelings, and the pride of our students. The release of your so-called education report falsely and unfairly casts a deep shadow on the quality of the education of this institution, without including the many positive improvements and educational achievements that all of the trustees have been aware of. By your own words and admission in the report itself, you knew that damage would be done to the students, teachers, and administrators if this so-called report were to be released. Nevertheless, you willfully engaged in a reckless and irresponsible action that casts serious doubt on your judgment and fitness to continue serving.
For these reasons, as Trustees, we cannot stand by and allow you to continue to bring harm upon our school and our children for whom we have the most sacred duty. You have breached your duty and are unfit to serve as a Trustee of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate. We urge you to do the right thing by immediately resigning your position as Trustee. If not, we will petition the Probate Court for your removal.
Oswald K. Stender, Trustee
Gerard A. Jervis, Trustee
Bishop Estate Archive