“There are no honest answers coming
from their koa-paneled boardroom.
There are no honest reports to the
parents and alumni members.”

Estate’s problem

'Less arrogance and more aloha'
are needed, not hiding behind
a spokesperson, he says

By Jim Witty

It is time for Bishop Estate trustees to come clean, says a prominent Hawaiian cleric.

In his first speech since the publication of "Broken Trust" a month ago, Monsignor Charles A. Kekumano told a Rotary Club of Honolulu audience yesterday that the trustees' lack of accountability is perhaps the most serious charge that has been leveled against them.

Kekumano, a co-author of the opinion piece that ran Aug. 9 in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and spurred an investigation of trustees by the state attorney general, called for a regular report of Bishop Estate dealings clearly outlining investment income and expenditures on Kamehameha Schools.

"Part of the problem with Bishop Estate is dishonesty," Kekumano said. "There are no honest answers coming from their koa-

paneled boardroom. There are no honest reports to the parents and alumni members who are asking for reports. There are no honest talk-story sessions with the parents and alumni, and nobody knows why.... Hiding behind the cliches and pretty face of a spokesperson is not really being honest nor accountable. The Hawaiians have waited long enough. All they want is less arrogance and more aloha."

Reached late yesterday afternoon, Bishop Estate spokeswoman Elisa Yadao declined comment.

Kekumano said yearly reports on the $10 billion trust commissioned by the probate court are superficial and often useless. And he discounted the trustees' contention that the school is the estate's sole beneficiary.

"Evidently they see no point in giving a report to buildings and roofs and classrooms," he said during the brief address tinged with sarcasm.

The retired Catholic priest also condemned recent trustee appointments by the justices of the state Supreme Court that he said "reek of political maneuverings and manipulations."

"Somehow the justices like making these appointments," he said. "Is it because they see themselves as eminently the best qualified to make these appointments? Or is it because they wield influence, political or otherwise, over those they appoint? Or is it because the power brokers in town become their friends in so many ways?"

Kekumano questioned why justices rejected the recommendations of the so-called blue-ribbon panel in 1994 that eventually whittled down a list of 149 nominees to five. "For whatever reason, the court rejected all five names," he told the Rotarians.

"They just redid the process and chose someone whose name had never been proposed."

Gerard Jervis was appointed as a trustee in 1994.

In a response to the "Broken Trust" piece, the justices defended the ethical propriety of the selection process and decried what they called the co-authors' "irresponsible attempt to erode public confidence in our integrity and professional competence."

They pointed to a 1994 review by the Commission on Judicial Conduct that concluded their role in selecting trustees was not improper.

Kekumano said he's confident the attorney general's investigation and subsequent report will spur changes in the way the nonprofit trust is administered.

The inquiry into allegations of management irregularities by the trustees is expected to take several months.

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