Friday, March 27, 1998

Star-Bulletin/Hawaii News 8 Poll

Most favor
ousting some Bishop
Estate trustees

Eighty-nine percent support
the decision for the attorney general's
investigation of the estate

By Rick Daysog

At least eight out of 10 Hawaii residents believe that some or all of the five trustees of Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate should be removed from office.

More than seven out of 10 think that the trustees are not doing a good job of running Kamehameha Schools.

And seven out of 10 say Bishop Estate holds too much power in Hawaii.

Those are some of the findings of a statewide poll of 419 registered voters conducted by Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research Inc. for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and NBC Hawaii News 8. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The survey -- based on telephone interviews March 12-17 -- comes after Bishop Estate trustees have received harsh criticism from Kamehameha Schools students, alumni, faculty and community leaders for their management of the estate's assets and their stewardship of Kamehameha Schools.

The estate also is the target of two separate government investigations: the Internal Revenue Service is conducting a wide-ranging audit of the estate, while state Attorney General Margery Bronster is looking into allegations of financial mismanagement and breaches of fiduciary duties by individual trustees.

Kekoa Paulsen, Bishop Estate's spokesman, said the results of the "popularity poll" should not surprise anyone given the type of media coverage the estate has received in the past 10 months. But he said it remains to be seen whether poll results would have any impact on the final outcome of the controversy.

One attorney for the estate recently criticized the controversy as "media hysteria" and charged that the state's investigation is designed to boost Gov. Ben Cayetano's re-election hopes.

Indeed, poll results show the ongoing turmoil over the Bishop Estate has benefited Cayetano politically. Some 89 percent of respondents said Cayetano's decision to start the investigation was a good idea, while only 8 percent said it was not a good idea.

About 46 percent of the survey's respondents also believe the investigation will result in changes, but 24 percent say there won't be any changes.

An overwhelming majority -- 82 percent -- thinks that some or all of the estate's five trustees should be removed: 36 percent of poll participants believe that all five trustees should be ousted, while 46 percent believe that some of them should be removed.

"They probably should get rid of the whole works and start all over again," said respondent Rosie Rees, 60, of Kailua-Kona.

While the survey gave the estate's individual trustees mixed grades, it gave a favorable rating to Kamehameha Schools President Michael Chun. Chun received a favorable rating from 37 percent of the poll's respondents while 9 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of him. About 26 percent were neutral.

Oswald Stender, a dissident within the board room for his criticisms of fellow trustees, received the best marks compared to his colleagues: a 27 percent favorable rating, though 9 percent gave him an unfavorable opinion.

Nine percent said they favored fellow dissident Gerard Jervis, but nearly half of the respondents said they did not recognize him. He had a 19 percent unfavorable rating.

But 40 percent of the poll's participants responded unfavorably to Henry Peters, while 5 percent said they had a favorable opinion of him. Board Chairman Richard Wong received a 6 percent favorable rating, while 37 percent of the poll's participants had an unfavorable opinion.

Some 58 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of trustee Lokelani Lindsey, while 8 percent rated her favorably. About 27 percent were neutral.

Doug Carlson, spokesman for Lindsey, said it's no surprise the results are negative given what he believes to be "one-sided and biased" reporting of the Bishop Estate controversy by the Star-Bulletin.

"The Star-Bulletin's use of this opinion poll to validate its view of current events is almost laughable," Carlson said.

The favorable and unfavorable ratings of individual trustees were similar to findings of a September poll (and a next-day followup) conducted for the Star-Bulletin and NBC Hawaii News 8. But the new findings come months after trustees were taken to task by several court-mandated assessments of the estate's operations.

In November, special master Colbert Matsumoto faulted the estate for its high-risk investment strategy, saying it faced losses and loss reserves of up to $265 million during its 1993-94 fiscal year.

Retired Judge Patrick Yim, who was hired by the estate to sort through the controversy, in December faulted trustees for their management of Kamehameha Schools and singled out Lindsey -- then the lead trustee for educational programs -- for misusing her authority and for fostering an environment of favoritism on the Kapalama Heights campus.

Poll respondent Rees said she supports the state's investigation into the estate because she believes much of the estate's money isn't going into the schools as it should but ends up benefiting the "old-boy system" of local politicians and ex-politicians.

She added that the trustee selection process has become much too politicized, and the current trustees are overpaid.

"It just seems to me that they're passing these jobs around to their friends," she said.

Aiea resident Ralph Hasegawa said he feels uneasy about the state's investigation of the trust.

While he believes the trustees aren't doing a good job of managing the schools, Hasegawa, a 1977 graduate of Kamehameha Schools, said he was "uncomfortable" with the state getting involved in the affairs of the Bishop Estate.

Hasegawa, a manager with United Parcel Service, said he believes any reform of the estate should come from within the organization -- from students, alumni and faculty.

"I certainly think there will be changes but I don't feel comfortable that those changes will be in the best interest of the estate," Hasegawa said.

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