Henry Peters denies the estateBy Rick Daysog
is going after students supporting
removal of trustees
Bishop Estate's majority trustees have ordered an investigation of 800 Kamehameha Schools students who signed a petition supporting the temporary removal of trustees, according to an attorney representing trustee Oswald Stender.
But trustee Henry Peters said that board members, who oversee the operations of Kamehameha Schools, were merely asking administrators to look into the matter and were not requesting an investigation of the students.
During a lengthy probate court hearing on Attorney General Margery Bronster's request to temporarily remove all five trustees, Crystal Rose, Stender's lawyer, disclosed that trustees voted 3-2 on Oct. 6 to investigate students who signed a petition backing Bronster's removal request.
40% of students for removalThe students represent more than 40 percent of Kamehameha Schools' high school students, and their signatures were recently included in court papers filed by Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi, a 2,700-member student, parent and faculty organization which has criticized trustees' management of Kamehameha Schools.
Sources said that trustees Peters, Richard Wong and Lokelani Lindsey voted for the action while Stender and Gerard Jervis opposed it.
Beadie Kanahele Dawson, Na Pua's attorney, said it is disturbing that trustees would intimidate students at a time when the probate court is considering their removal.
She said the action worsens an already tense atmosphere at the Kapalama Heights campus, adding that her organization will work to protect students who may come under such an investigation.
"I'm appalled that in the face of a trial, they would take this kind of action," she said. "I think that it was not only a cruel thing to do, but I think that it was not well thought out on their part."
Rose said the action by the majority trustees -- Peters, Lindsey and Wong -- shows that they continue to cause harm to Kamehameha Schools.
'Fist of power' criticizedLindsey, in particular, has hurt the schools by requesting investigations of students and teachers even after she was removed last year as lead trustee of the estate's educational programs, she said.
"That fist of power, that continued climate of fear and intimidation at the Kamehameha Schools, must stop now," Rose said.
News of an investigation of students comes as probate Judge Colleen Hirai is weighing Bronster's request for temporary removal. Bronster has alleged that trustees withheld more than $350 million in income from Kamehameha Schools, jeopardized the trust's tax-exempt status, and mismanaged trust assets.
After hearing nearly five hours of debate between Bronster and the attorney for the estate's five trustees, Hirai said she would examine the arguments and would make a ruling later.
Hirai also rejected a motion by Bronster that would have pushed back the trial date of a separate removal proceeding that Stender and Gerard Jervis have filed against Lindsey. That trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 4.
Meanwhile, attorneys for the majority trustees denied that they caused any harm to the schools, saying the schools have benefited under the trustees' stewardship.
Michael Green, Lindsey's attorney, said it's untrue that trustees are investigating students. He said that Stender's attorneys are making up the investigation to suit their agenda.
Academic record improvesUnder Lindsey's stewardship, students' academic performance at Kamehameha Schools -- especially at the lower levels -- has improved, Green said.
"We now have kids who are better off now than before," he said.
"There's nobody in danger there. She's not reaching out to anybody."
Yesterday's hearing -- which was attended by trustees Lindsey and Wong and included a cameo appearance by Peters -- began with a legal challenge by Wayne Sakai, Wong's attorney.
Sakai filed a petition in probate court yesterday morning to disqualify the estate's special master Colbert Matsumoto, who has sharply criticized the estate's management and investment policies.
Sakai said that Matsumoto blatantly violated his duty to be impartial by signing a letter endorsing Gov. Ben Cayetano for re-election.
The trustees have argued that the state's investigation, which relies heavily on the master's report, is politically motivated and designed to boost Cayetano's campaign efforts.
Matsumoto said he has not read the petition, and declined immediate comment.
A probate court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 8.
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