Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Friday, May 1, 1998

Milton was bar host
to the most

I'M trying to imagine the public outcry that would ensue if it turned out that officials of a major charity, say, the American Red Cross, were boozing it up with politicians at sex bars and picking up the tab.

I have a feeling that the entire board of directors would be fired not only for allowing the charity's assets to be squandered but for squandering them in such an unseemly fashion.

That's why the boards of major charities generally are staffed by people donating their time and trying to keep the charity's public image squeaky clean.

Then there's Bishop Estate, not a charity in the traditional sense, but a mega-endowed educational institution that enjoys tax-exempt status on all but its most commercial enterprises. If it had to pay taxes on its operations, the money would support a small country. Or even Hawaii.

But it doesn't. And in return for this governmental largess, the five trustees have to do essentially nothing but sit back and rake in the dough that comes from being the state's largest private landholder, invest that dough in prudent ways, use some of that dough to educate only about 15 percent of all Hawaiian children and try to keep their public image clean. That's really not too tall of an order, especially split between five trustees who are becoming multi-millionaires at the estate's expense.

Bishop Estate is hip deep in state and federal investigations because it has managed to screw up even those relatively uncomplicated tasks. I mean, what kind of financial nitwit do you have to hire to assure that a billion-dollar, tax-exempt enterprise LOSES money in the biggest bull market in modern history?

That's bad enough. But now we are learning sordid details of how Bishop Estate employee Milton Holt -- hired by the estate when he was a state legislator -- has been using estate funds to entertain his political cronies at local sex clubs.

All right. They aren't called sex clubs. They are called "hostess bars." But they aren't called that because you are served a tray of Hostess Twinkies when you enter the joint. They are called that because the bars' "hostesses" sit in the booth with you and rub your leg after you buy them drinks for prices that would gag Alan Greenspan. You can quibble over how much leg-rubbing actually goes on. But trust me, you don't run up $500 tabs simply drinking Bud Lites.

We know Holt was going to "hostess bars" because the tabs were charged on Bishop Estate credit cards. The IRS has those records and no doubt reviewing them with some interest.

Holt has even identified the legislators he claims he was bar-hopping with, even though he's a little hazy about some of the names. He thought that state Senate Prez Norman Mizuguchi was one of the gents he entertained. Mizuguchi denies this. Holt decided it wasn't Mizuguchi but another senator whose name starts with "M" and is, conveniently, dead.

Memory is a funny thing, especially when hampered by several hundred dollars worth of adult beverages.

But it doesn't matter which legislators Holt was buddying up to as much as the fact that he was using tax-exempt funds from a major charity to do it. And the trustees are ultimately responsible because 1) They hired Holt knowing he was a party boy; 2) They gave him the credit cards; 3) It's their job to know where the dough's going.

In the real world, this would spell major trouble for the trustees. But this isn't the real world, this is Hawaii. So the trustees not only will NOT resign in disgrace for this sorry desecration of a fine institution, but will continue to milk it for their own personal fortunes.

Bishop Estate Archive

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

or send E-mail to charley@nomayo.com or

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