Tuesday, December 22, 1998

weighed school
chief’s firing

Bishop attorney testifies
Wong was unhappy with
popular President Chun

By Rick Daysog


Bishop Estate trustee Richard "Dickie" Wong discussed firing Kamehameha Schools president Michael Chun with the estate's in-house attorney, according to testimony before Circuit Judge Bambi Weil.

Nathan Aipa, Bishop Estate general counsel, said yesterday that Wong, chairman of the estate's board of trustees, was dissatisfied with Chun's performance as head of the Kapalama Heights campus when the topic of Chun's termination was raised.

Aipa did not give a date for the conversation with Wong, but it is believed to have occurred last year when speculation about Chun's demise was rampant.

Aipa said he did not conduct any follow-up work after he and Wong discussed termination.

Chun, who is popular with students and alumni, remains president of the schools. But rumors of his firing helped fuel the controversy that's engulfed the estate for the past two years.

Bishop Estate trustees Gerard Jervis and Oswald Stender have alleged that fellow trustee Lokelani Lindsey usurped Chun's duties and, in doing so, harmed faculty and student morale. They are seeking Lindsey's removal from the five-member board on the grounds that she mismanaged the schools, breached her fiduciary duties and is unfit to serve.

Lindsey's attorneys, meanwhile, have contended that Chun is not qualified to serve as president, prompting Lindsey to action to improve the schools. They also have argued that students' test scores and the schools' educational programs have declined during Chun's tenure.

During questioning by Stender's attorney Douglas Ing, Aipa said he and Lindsey discussed her dissatisfaction with Chun's work performance. But the attorney said he and Lindsey did not talk about firing Chun.

Aipa also testified about the release of the controversial "Lindsey report" that criticized Chun's management and students' test scores. The report alleged that the longer students stayed at Kamehameha Schools, the lower they scored on standardized test scores.

Aipa, who was conducting a legal review of Lindsey's report, said he was surprised when details were released to news media last December. At the time, Aipa said, he considered the document confidential and trustees had not authorized Lindsey to make the report public.

Also yesterday, Aipa appeared in court with two large boxes containing minutes of board meetings between March 1993 and October 1995. Attorneys for Stender and Jervis had subpoenaed the records for Aipa's testimony and future testimony by trustees.

Bishop Estate attorney William McCorriston objected to the delivery of the records to the court, arguing that they were protected by attorney-client privilege and were subject to protective orders in a separate legal proceeding before Circuit Judge Kevin Chang.

But Weil ruled that the estate had to hand over the records as part of the removal proceedings, prompting McCorriston to file papers with the state Supreme Court to stay Weil's decision. The high court has taken no action on McCorriston's request.

Weil yesterday also heard testimony from Thomas Read, a member of the visiting Western Association of Schools and Colleges team that evaluated the Kamehameha Schools earlier this year.

WASC this year granted a three-year accreditation, instead of the six years sought by the schools. In its report, the team largely gave good marks to educational programs but criticized estate trustees for a dysfunctional management style.

Read, an expert witness for Stender, said he believed Lindsey's micromanagement of school affairs created distrust at the campus. "There seemed to be a pervasive climate of fear among teachers and counseling staff."

Michael Green, attorney for Lindsey, faulted the WASC team for not speaking with trustees. He said WASC's review largely reflects rumors and innuendo spread by faculty members against Lindsey.

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