Letters to the Editor
Tuesday, August 19, 1997

‘Broken Trust’ authors
respond to Waihee

This is in response to comments by ex-governor Waihee ("Waihee denies trustee report," Star Bulletin, Aug. 13) about certain statements in our article ("Broken Trust," Star Bulletin, Aug. 9 ).

First, Waihee is dead wrong when he says that Msgr. Charles Kekumano approached him on behalf of the blue-ribbon panel, and that he was asked by Kekumano if he wanted his name added to the existing list of five nominees for Bishop Estate trustee. Kekumano did pay Waihee a courtesy call after the panel had concluded its work, but he was not speaking on behalf of the panel and he did not ask if the then-governor wanted to be added to the list.

In fact, Kekumano had argued during panel deliberations against putting Waihee's name on the list. The purpose of the courtesy call was to tell Waihee, face-to-face, why Kekumano had opposed his bid to be a Bishop Estate trustee.

Second, Waihee evidently misinterpreted a sentence in our article. He thought we had said that neither Robert Klein's nor Steven Levinson's name was on the first list sent to him by the judicial selection commission. We didn't say that neither name was on the list. We said both names were not on the list. There's a difference.

Our point was that Waihee already knew which two people he wanted to select and that when both of those names weren't on the list, he sent it back. After the list had been changed, both names were on it, and both were selected.

Third, here's Waihee's explanation of why he sent back the first version of the list: "Further, the commission sent me four lists for four vacancies, but the lists were almost identical. It was apparent that the lists did not meet the requirements of the Hawaii state Constitution, which says that there will be a minimum of six names submitted to the governor for any judicial vacancy."

According to a then-member of the commission, that explanation is very misleading. "First of all, he makes it sound as if there were four openings on the Supreme Court at that time. That's not accurate. If four lists were involved, they weren't for the same court, and we wouldn't have submitted almost identical lists for different positions. That's just not the way we operated." We believe our source.

Fourth, Waihee states that "(Warren) Price was required to resign to be appointed attorney general." The truth is that when Price was named attorney general, he stated publicly that he had no intention of resigning from the commission, and Waihee gave no indication of wanting him to do so. One member of the commission at that time was so bothered by this that she read a letter of protest to other commission members during a commission meeting.

Some time later, Price announced that he would resign from the commission in three months (on April 1, 1987). But amid growing public criticism, he changed his position, and quit the commission on Jan. 8, 1987. We think this description of the circumstances of Price's resignation from the commission is more accurate and illuminating than is Waihee's.

Fifth, Waihee has correctly pointed out that Tom Enomoto was a member of the commission from April 1981 to September 1984. Commission members usually serve six-year terms, but for reasons not ascertainable from commission records, Enomoto resigned midway through his term. Consequently, any suggestion that Enomoto conferred (as a commission member) with Waihee (as governor) about possible appointments to the bench would be wrong.

We believe, however, that this fact does not alter our basic premise -- that during the period John Waihee was governor it was common for him to confer ahead of time with several commission members who then would strive to get a predetermined name on each list. Waihee's blanket denial of this leaves us unconvinced.

Finally, Waihee makes much of the fact that our article includes quotes that are attributed generally to anonymous sources. Under normal circumstances, his protest would be well taken -- there is something inherently troubling about an unnamed party saying something negative about a named party. The reality, however, is that many of the people we talked to were very afraid of retaliation, and we didn't think their fears were unwarranted. Whether or not deserved, Waihee and four of the Bishop Estate trustees are perceived by many as powerful and vindictive.

Some people have said what we did was courageous. The truth is that each of us is a lot less vulnerable than are most people in this state. Each of us is either retired or enjoys a form of tenure. This gives us the freedom, and responsibility, to speak out.

Gladys Brandt
MsgR. Charles Kekumano
Walter Heen
Samuel King
Randall Roth

Rodrigues picks judges
who picks trustees -- hmm

I'm weighing in on the governor's look at Kamehameha Schools and the selection of its trustees by the state Supreme Court as having the appearance of Hawaii "politics as usual/old-boy network."

I wonder what beam or speck was in Senate President Mizuguchi's eye when he appointed the leader of a major labor union (and politico) to nominate those same judges?

In politicians with a larger integrity quotient, the mere appearance of impropriety would be a restraining influence.

Phil Thorngren
Wailuku, Maui
(Via the Internet)

A behind-the-scenes look
at trustee selection

A blue-ribbon committee may not mean selection of the most "eminently qualified" trustees for the Bishop Estate.

In 1994, I served on a committee whose mission was to submit a list of "eminently qualified candidates for Bishop Estate trustee" to the Supreme Court justices for selection. Although the committee included some prominent community leaders, the mission failed.

The committee received hundreds of applications. Ostensibly, two essential questions were: 1) What does "eminently qualified" mean? and 2) What's the best procedure to determine a list of "eminently qualified?"

A request to clarify the words "eminently qualified" was rejected by a majority. There was little or no discussion regarding the trustees' awesome duties and functions.

Of the hundreds of applicants received, there was agreement to reject applicants by general reputation, hearsay, rumor and ignorance, and to reduce the list to a workable balance for more consideration of about 50 people -- later to 20, 15, 10 and then five individuals. A request to interview candidates was rejected because of time constraints.

A list of five names was submitted to the justices, who invited committee members to a meeting to discuss the list. Only one member appeared at the meeting. The justices rejected the committee's list and the blue-ribbon committee's mission failed.

Alvin Shim

How dare councilman say
that Black is extorting city

Regarding Sharon Black's sexual harassment lawsuit against the Honolulu Police Department: City Councilman Jon Yoshimura is reported as saying, "This is all about money," and "I really feel we're being extorted."

Black turned down the Council's settlement offer of $500,000. She is a single, working mother employed as an outreach worker for the homeless, not much of a glamour job. Had she been truly interested in the money, she would have accepted the settlement.

Instead she has chosen to endure a lengthy court battle, in addition to the months she has already spent trying to resolve the matter through mediation, not to mention tolerating HPD's alleged retaliation via phone taps, surveillance, intimidation and hostility which followed her initial report to HPD Internal Affairs.

Who's being extorted here?

Cinde Fisher

Same-sex archive

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