Tuesday, August 4, 1998

By Cindy Ellen Russell, Star-Bulletin
Abigail Kawananakoa, board president of Friends of Iolani
Palace, attended a meeting at the palace yesterday. A board
spokesman said Kawananakoa and Jim Bartels, who resigned
as managing director in a dispute with Kawananakoa, are both
assets to the palace.

Palace directors
want to
keep duo

‘They asked for my head
and I gave it to them,’
Kawananakoa says

By Mary Adamski


Friends of Iolani Palace directors want to keep both board President Abigail Kawananakoa and Jim Bartels, who resigned last month as managing director in a dispute with her, involved in administering the palace, a board spokesman says.

But Ronald F. Larsen, designated spokesman after a special board meeting yesterday, declined to answer questions about whether there might be a change in positions held by the two.

Kawananakoa, who left by a back door after the meeting at the state Archives Building, said: "They asked for my head and I gave it to them" when questioned about whether she had been asked to resign.

But Larsen said: "We have not received any resignation" and refused to comment on whether one had been sought. Kawananakoa has been president since 1971.

"She is in a position to do what she thinks is best and I think she will," he said.

Larsen refered to Bartels and Kawananakoa as assets.

"We want to keep our assets in a way that strengthens the palace and a way that strengthens the cultural symbol. We have Jim Bartels . . . we need him. We need her here, too. (Both are) definite assets, and so are the docents," said Larsen. "Which one would you want to throw away? It's like which part of body would you want to cut out.

"They worked together before for many years . . . over 20 years. What's to prevent them from working together in future? There is a common interest both have, that is the palace. Both have done tremendous amounts of work in restoring the palace."

Neither Bartels nor Kawananakoa could be reached for comment last night.

"I shouldn't have to be going through this," she commented to a Star-Bulletin photographer when she arrived at the meeting yesterday.

Larsen, a real estate broker who has been on the board for five years, said board members expect to iron out problems by the next regular board meeting.

"There is a solution, we feel. We made a lot of progress for amicably resolving the challenges. We believe by the Aug. 27 meeting we will have things properly resolved to everyone's satisfaction."

Bartels, who was named managing director last year after 21 years as curator, resigned in a disagreement that came to a head when he objected to Kawananakoa sitting on a palace throne for a Life magazine photograph. He has declined to comment publicly on his resignation and he has not attended subsequent board meetings.

The museum board called an earlier special meeting after many of the volunteer docents, who lead tours of the palace, signed a letter supporting Bartels. Larsen characterized the July 20 gathering as a "docents vs. board meeting" but said the directors benefited because they talked with docents and heard their concerns after the meeting.

"This whole thing is a flushing out process," he said.

He said curator Corinne Chun and board members have been handling the managing director responsibilities.

"Hopefully by the next meeting we will have enough to go to the docents and back to the board to resolve that situation."

The question of whether the throne was damaged when Kawananakoa sat in it was not discussed yesterday, Larsen said. The Bishop Museum, which owns the thrones, has not completed its assessment of damage to the fragile fabric seat. Larsen said museum director Donald Duckworth, who sits on the Friends of Iolani Palace board, "didn't make it sound like it is anything critical."

Some docents and observers have been critical of comments made during the dispute by Kawananakoa, who is the great-grandniece of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani and an heir of the James Campbell Estate. She suggested doing away with the docents, said "I'm the big cheese" and "I'm the one, my heritage demands it."

Larsen said, "When you know somebody, you accept them. A lot of us on the board have known her for a long time. We have a lot of respect for her and her whole contribution. You forgive people . . . when you know somebody for a long time."

He said: "This is not a real antagonistic board. We are trying to find a solution in the right way. We are trying to do all that we can to keep the assets we have in place from wandering away.

"If we come up with the good solutions, it will help everybody be a winner . . . so the palace is a winner, the Hawaiian people, a winner."

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