Tuesday, March 3, 1998

High court's recusal pushed by Bronster

Justices must recuse themselves
to avoid the appearance of
impropriety, she says

By Rick Daysog

State Attorney General Margery Bronster is urging Hawaii Supreme Court justices to act quickly on a motion to recuse themselves from matters involving the Bishop Estate.

In court papers filed yesterday, Bronster renewed calls that the high court recuse itself from estate hearing issues to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

Bronster, who is investigating allegations of financial mismanagement and breaches of fiduciary duties by individual trustees, is examining the trustees selection process.

She said that she may have to subpoena Supreme Court justices who, until recently, had selected Bishop Estate trustees.

"The appearance of impropriety results from the fact that each of the justices has been individually involved in the process of selecting and appointing trustees," Bronster said.

Chief Justice Ronald Moon declined comment yesterday.

But Moon cited Bronster's recusal motion last month when he temporarily suspended a state subpoena seeking estate documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

Moon said the temporary stay was needed so the high court or a substitute court could study Bronster's recusal motion.

The state has argued that the IRS documents are critical to its investigation because they could show whether trustees benefited at the expense of the estate.

(A Circuit Court judge ruled in the state's favor, but trust attorneys have appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, saying the IRS records should be confidential.)

In her filing yesterday, Bronster said the Supreme Court has known since August that she is investigating the trustee selection process. She said the high court could have ruled on the state's recusal motion as early as five weeks ago.

"I'm wondering what's taking the justices so long to recuse themselves," said Beadie Kanahele Dawson, attorney for Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi, which represents students and parents.

"It should be a no-brainer."

In a related matter, a Circuit Court hearing was to be held today on Bronster's request for sanctions against Bishop Estate for allegedly withholding subpoenaed documents. The state claims the estate initially withheld records, which included some $21,000 in estate Visa card charges at local hostess bars and Las Vegas casinos by Milton Holt, a Bishop official and former state senator.

Also, on another issue, Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall yesterday set a Nov. 2 hearing for a petition by estate trustees Gerard Jervis and Oswald Stender to remove fellow trustee Lokelani Lindsey.

Jervis and Stender have argued that Lindsey damaged the administration of the estate and was unfit to serve as trustee. Lindsey has denied the charges, saying she was being made a scapegoat.

Attorneys for Jervis and Stender -- Ronald Sakamoto and Crystal Rose, respectively -- said they pushed for a hearing during the summer when Kamehameha Schools was not in session.

But attorneys for Lindsey said they were unavailable until a later date. Michael Green, an attorney for Lindsey, said he was concerned that his client receives due process and is well-represented.

"It was very disturbing that Mrs. Lindsey, through her attorney, rejected out of hand the needs of the students," Sakamoto and Rose said.


Trustees want financial
and management audit

By Debra Barayuga


Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate trustees are searching for an education expert or team of experts to conduct a financial and management audit of the schools, says an official.

As part of the audit, whoever is hired will likely review reports by both Lokelani Lindsey, critical of the schools' programs, and Schools President Michael J. Chun, responding to her criticisms, said Kekoa Paulsen, KSBE spokesman. "They'll be looking at everything."

An accreditation team is also expected to visit the Kapalama campus next week and will likely review reports on student achievement, though not specifically Lindsey's or Chun's reports, he said.

Meanwhile, trustees say Chun is in charge and is continuing to do the job he was hired to do. Their critics, however, say Chun may be schools president -- but in name only.

"The trustees have been saying for months now that he's president -- we know that," said Toni Lee, president of Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi, an organization of Kamehameha parents, students and alumni.

"But he's been given slices of this and slices of that, not the full operation of the school," which is being handled by Vice President Rockne Freitas, she said.

Trustees are not saying if they are satisfied with Chun's point-by-point response to Lindsey's December report criticizing the schools' curriculum and test scores. Chun's two-part response came in an initial report to trustees late last year detailing test scores, spending on dorm furniture and now-dead outreach programs; then a supplement earlier this year on the effectiveness of Kamehameha's curriculum.

Lindsey declined comment, her spokesman Doug Carlson said.

Although Chun's report was reviewed and discussed, trustees took it under advisement and no decisions were made, said Paulsen.

At a Feb. 19 meeting with Kamehameha alumni, "Chairman (Richard) Wong is adamant that Mike (Chun) is in charge and responsible for the operations and direction of the school," said Paulsen, noting that Chun has the same job description as when he was hired. "While Mike may not have the hands-on, the final decisions rest with him."

Chun could not be reached for comment.

Roy Benham, president of the Kamehameha Alumni Association Hawaii Chapter, Oahu region, noted that Wong did not come out directly and say that Chun is running the schools.

"We still want to see proof of the pudding," he said.

Chun in recent weeks has sent directives to staffers and appears to be taking steps to exert his authority as president, said Benham, noting that the alumni association continues to stand behind Chun. "We're still in full support the school should be run by the president, who is answerable to the trustees."

In the past four weeks, Chun has made decisions about the length of the school year, flexibility in standardized testing schedules and addressing teacher concerns about their contracts, said Kathleen Kukea, coordinator of curriculum and instruction for the secondary schools.

Na Pua members have absolute confidence in Chun's ability to lead the schools, Lee said, having earned the respect of students, parents and alumni over the years.

While there may be others more qualified for the post, "his caring and concern for the students through everything he does with them and for them far exceeds any president that we have had in the past," she said.

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