Top 10 Stories of 1997

Story of the year:
Bishop Estate controversy

Kamehameha alumni protests
and 'Broken Trust' exposed turmoil

Star-Bulletin Staff

HAWAII in 1997 saw the desecration of the veterans cemetery in Punchbowl, opening of the long-stalled H-3 freeway, some benefits for same-sex couples, opening of hard-core juvenile criminal records, the death of little Alana.

But one story rose above the rest: charges of mismanagement and intimidation that rocked the Bishop Estate, exposing turmoil at the nation's richest charitable trust.

In May, some 300 people turned out to protest how the estate's five trustees were running Kamehameha Schools, the beneficiary of the estimated $10 billion trust. Months later, the simmering discontent boiled over when five respected leaders penned their essay "Broken Trust," published in the Star-Bulletin.

Since then, historic changes have occurred over how the 114-year-old trust does, and will be doing, business. The Hawaii Supreme Court justices said they will no longer appoint the trustees, breaking a century-old tradition. And reports by both court-appointed estate master Colbert Matsumoto and fact finder Patrick Yim came back critical of trustees' conduct.

Meanwhile, several investigations continue, including ones by the state attorney general and the Internal Revenue Service. In court, a federal lawsuit seeks to have the trustees personally repay the trust for any money they've mismanaged. And in a court motion this week, Oswald Stender and Gerard Jervis moved to oust fellow trustee Lokelani Lindsey.

The year's other top local news stories:

Reciprocal benefits: Many of the benefits available to married people in Hawaii were extended to gay couples, siblings and roommates under a first-in-the-nation law that took effect in July. The law was a compromise answer to a 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that found it unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Legislature, meanwhile, agreed to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would let lawmakers restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Cemetery desecrations: On April 19-20, vandals sprayed hate messages on thousands of grave sites at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe and five other Oahu cemeteries. No arrests have been made.

H-3 freeway opens: More than 30 years after it was conceived, the 16-mile H-3 freeway finally opened in December, linking Halawa to the Windward side. The price tag: $1.3 billion -- 18 times the originally projected $70 million.

Privatization flap: On March 1, the state Supreme Court ruled that government can't privatize services traditionally performed by civil service employees. The case involved Hawaii County's effort to privatize the Puuanahulu landfill.

Though the state administration and Honolulu officials took it in relative stride, the ruling caused a flurry on the neighbor islands, where hundreds of contracts with private companies were canceled or submitted to Circuit Court for approval.

Book-buying contract: The state library system's experiment with private book buyers ended in July when an $11 million contract with Baker & Taylor was canceled. Many librarians complained Baker & Taylor did a poor job choosing and delivering books and charged too much for certain titles. The company sued the state.

Ewa Villages scandal: The arrests of 14 people, including two city Housing Department employees, brought to a head months of questions over the city's troubled Ewa Villages project. The ongoing criminal probe into the scandal involves the suspects' use of their city positions to have friends relocate Ewa Villages tenants at exorbitant prices.

Deadly Palolo fire: Seven members of Elaine Faumuina's family died on Oct. 15 -- including her husband of 27 years, Ulutunu -- victims of an early-morning fire at their rented Palolo home. The blaze was the deadliest house fire in the state's history.

Juvenile crime records: From April until he hits age 19 next year, Gabriel Kealoha is confined to a juvenile detention facility for the manslaughter death of off-duty police officer Sgt. Arthur Miller. Kealoha's case gave the public a rare glimpse into the closed juvenile justice system when his bail hearing was opened -- just months before a new state law went into effect to open hearings and records for some juvenile cases.

Farewell, Alana: Alana Dung, 3, who touched thousands in her fight against leukemia, spurred the community in the cause for bone marrow donation. Cautious optimism followed her bone marrow transplant in July 1996, but her recovery would not last. On Oct. 14, Alana died peacefully in her home.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

What readers said

Here's what some readers had to say about the local story that affected them the most in 1997:

"Thank you for the wake-up call you have been giving us with your fine investigative reporting on community and political matters. Your 1997 coverage on the Bishop Estate trustees, in particular, deserves our gratitude. Please keep up the good work."

--Polly Pool, Kaneohe

"The Alana Dung story! That little girl touched my heart! I wanted her to win the battle against leukemia. When thousands came out to try to help, it showed us all that the aloha spirit is alive and well in Hawaii. She also helped many others in the same situation. Her short life will be long remembered."

--Linda Kato, Waipahu

"Judge (Kevin) Chang's ruling allowing same-sex marriage and the court's dismissal of the people's request for a Con Con. They forget this is a people's government."

--Jim and Lisa Mendoza, Kaimuki

"Cedra Edwards, the 20-month-old beaten by her mom; and the Bishop Estate trustee investigation."

--Shiyana Thenabadu, Honolulu

"Michael Jackson performs at Aloha Stadium. The King of Pop, Michael Jackson's concert tour in Hawaii Jan. 3-4 was perhaps the greatest well-anticipated, much-awaited concert extravaganza to ever hit the islands, since Elvis came here in the '60s."

--Curtis L. Kaneshiro, Honolulu


A month-by-month glance at 1997 highlights in Hawaii:


Jan. 17 -- State Sen. Richard Matsuura, weak from cancer, announced he would resign from the Senate. He died on May 2.

Jan. 30 -- Police sealed off a city block in a standoff with former city Deputy Prosecutor George Parker III. Eventually, officers subdued Parker with a wooden bullet.


Feb. 5 -- Miss Hawaii Brook Lee was crowned Miss USA.

Feb. 13 -- Big-wave rider Todd Chesser, 28, died while surfing at Waimea Bay.

Feb. 20 -- Hawaii's first teachers' strike in 24 years was averted just before it was to begin. A four-year contract was approved at 4:30 a.m., a half-hour before the strike was to start at 5 a.m.


March 12 -- Honolulu City Council set a $1 parking fee at Hanauma Bay and a $3 entrance fee for non-residents visiting the bay.

March 22 -- Hawaii residents searched the evening sky as Comet Hale-Bopp made its closest point of approach to Earth. The comet was 122 million miles away from the planet.

March 29 -- University of Hawaii football player Shannon Smith drowned at Kauai's Slippery Slide while saving Coach Fred vonAppen's son from a whirlpool.


April 16 -- House and Senate conferees agreed to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would let lawmakers restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples.

April 16 -- Gabriel Kealoha, convicted of manslaughter in the death of off-duty police officer Sgt. Arthur Miller, began serving his sentence at a Kailua juvenile detention facility.

April 19-20 -- Monuments and grave markers were desecrated at the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl and six other Oahu cemeteries.

April 24 -- The state Board of Agriculture voted to cut quarantine for pets from 120 days to 30 days.

April 28 -- Arson was suspected in a fire that shut down the cafeteria and several fast-food restaurants at the University of Hawaii Campus Center.


May 5 -- Vicky Liu became the first lady of Hawaii when she married Gov. Benjamin Cayetano in a quiet ceremony.

May 15 -- About 300 parents, students, alumni and supporters turned out to protest the way Bishop Estate trustees were running Kamehameha


May 16 -- Miss USA Brook Lee was crowned Miss Universe.


June 19 -- State Board of Education members voted to terminate a problematic contract with book supplier Baker & Taylor.

June 26 -- Popular singer Israel Kamakawiwo'ole died at age 38.


July 8 -- The state's reciprocal benefits law went into effect, allowing couples who couldn't legally marry to get some of the benefits given to married people.

July 15 -- Oahu parole violator Akram Abdullah-Wasi, 20, was arrested on the Big Island and accused of selling tickets to a bogus Spice Girls concert.

July 23 -- Gov. Ben Cayetano announced the Rolling Stones would perform at Aloha Stadium in January.

July 30 -- Oahu beaches went through a three-day jellyfish attack which involved 800 stings.


Aug. 7 -- Police, sheriffs and state workers hauled away the belongings of families who were camped near Mokuleia Beach Park.

Aug. 8 -- Katie McKenzie, 11, was critically injured when a car slammed into her at the downtown Bank of Hawaii building. She has since delighted doctors and well-wishers with a steady recovery.

Aug. 9 -- Five community leaders voiced concerns about the operations of Bishop Estate in the "Broken Trust" essay published in the Star-Bulletin.

Aug. 11 -- Lava breached the walls of the Big Island's 800-year-old Wahaula heiau.

Aug. 30 -- After community groups staged protests, the military announced it would not conduct a landing exercise at Makua Beach.


Sept. 2 -- Gov. Ben Cayetano collapsed from a bleeding ulcer.

Sept. 22 -- Electrical service to 25 downtown office buildings was disrupted by an underground fire.


Oct. 14 -- Alana Dung, who had touched thousands in her fight against leukemia, died peacefully in her home.

Oct. 15 -- Three adults and four children perished in a Palolo fire. The blaze was the deadliest house fire in the state's history.

Oct. 26 -- Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited Hawaii.

Oct. 31 -- First city employee arrested on theft and bribery charges in the Ewa Villages relocation scandal.


Nov. 7 -- School principals reported that dozens of children at two Catholic Schools had been diagnosed with scarlet fever.


Dec. 10 -- Hundreds of Kauai children underwent testing to see if they carried a strain of flesh-eating bacteria.

Dec. 12 -- The H-3 freeway opened.

Dec. 20 -- Hawaii Supreme Court justices said they would no longer appoint Bishop Estate Trustees.

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