Friday, October 23, 1998

Trustee ouster petition heads to civil court

Probate judge also rejects
a move to drop Bronster as
Bishop guardian

By Rick Daysog


Attorney General Margery Bronster's petition to permanently remove several Bishop Estate trustees is headed to the civil courts.

Probate Judge Colleen Hirai this morning assigned the case to the civil calender, meaning that the removal petition will be given an evidentiary hearing that will likely be months from now.

Hirai also dismissed a petition by estate trustee Henry Peters to disqualify Bronster as parens patriae, or guardian, of the multibillion-dollar estate. Peters had argued that Bronster's respon

sibilities as parens patriae conflicted with her role as attorney general heading an investigation of the trustees.

Hirai said there was insufficient basis for the disqualification.

Renee Yuen, Peters' attorney, argued that Bronster during her yearlong investigation intimidated the state Supreme Court to step away from selecting Bishop Estate trustees and hearing matters involving the estate, and that Bronster has misused her authority to boost the election efforts of Gov. Ben Cayetano.

On the removal issue, Bronster in a Sept. 10 petition alleged that Peters, Lokelani Lindsey and Richard Wong mismanaged the estate's assets and enriched themselves at the expense of the trust.

She also charged that the estate took part in an illegal campaign finance scheme in which its vendors paid for campaign debts owed by estate employee and former state Sen. Milton Holt and Sen. Marshall Ige, a longtime friend of Peters.

She also alleged that Wong and Peters had received kickbacks. They deny the charges.

Bishop Estate sues
state campaign commission

By Rick Daysog


Bishop Estate, under investigation for possible campaign finance violations, has sued the state Campaign Spending Commission, saying the commission violated its right to due process.

The charitable trust yesterday asked a circuit judge to invalidate the commission's decision on Tuesday to refer its investigation to Attorney General Margery Bronster for possible criminal prosecution.

William McCorriston, estate attorney, said the commission doesn't have the authority to refer complaints involving a corporation or organization. It can only refer complaints if they involve individuals, he said.

But Brian Nakamura, the Campaign Spending Commission's general counsel, said the commission clearly has the right to refer its complaint to the attorney general's office.

"All we did is refer the case," Nakamura said. "It's up to the AG and courts to decide whether there were violations of criminal statues."

On Tuesday, the commission voted 4-0 to refer charges that the estate, estate employees Namyln Snow and Yukio Takemoto, and five of the estate's outside vendors violated state law by failing to report campaign contributions and exceeding a $4,000 contribution limit.

The alleged illegal campaign contributions involved former state Sen. Milton Holt's unsuccessful 1996 re-election effort and Sen. Marshall Ige's 1994 state House campaign. The commission, by 5-0 vote, also referred its investigations of Holt and Ige to Bronster for possible criminal prosecution.

For the 1996 and 1997 fiscal years, the five vendors, who were selected on a nonbid basis, conducted about $1.3 million in engineering and architectural work for the trust.

McCorriston has denied that the estate was involved in the alleged scheme. He added that the alleged payments can't be considered contributions since they were made after the election period.

Under federal tax law, a tax-exempt trust like the Bishop Estate cannot make political contributions or endorse political candidates. The Internal Revenue Service can revoke a charity's tax-exempt status if this law is violated.

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