By David Shapiro

Saturday, November 8, 1997

Two figures
in Bishop Estate battle

THIS is a story about two political leaders in the twilight of their careers.

One is retired Judge Walter Heen. He was an important force in the state Legislature, chaired the Honolulu City Council and presided as a trial court and appeals court judge with intelligence, fairness and keen knowledge of the law.

Heen may be remembered even more for what he's done since retiring.

He was a key member of the Economic Revitalization Task Force. Other members say his vast knowledge was vital to their understanding of why things are the way they are.

Heen joined Gladys Brandt, Msgr. Charles Kekumano, Samuel King and Randall Roth to write "Broken Trust," the scathing essay on the Bishop Estate that inspired Gov. Cayetano to order an investigation by the attorney general.

His achievements haven't diminished his personal modesty. Congratulated for the impact of "Broken Trust," he shrugged, "Just trying to find ways to keep the mind agile."

This is a very rich man. Heen and other "Broken Trust" authors must feel awfully good to wake up in the morning and know that their reputations for integrity are so strong that simply gracing an essay with their names and ideas can arouse a community and move a governor to unprecedented action.

The other political leader is Richard Wong, former president of the state Senate and now chairman of the Bishop Estate trustees.

If Wong is rich, it's only because he's paid nearly $1 million a year by the Bishop Estate. Despite his many years of good service in the Legislature, he enjoys little community respect as he, Lokelani Lindsey and Henry Peters stonewall Hawaiians and state investigators.

But he can change that if he wishes. The defection of trustee Gerard Jervis to join Oswald Stender in opposition to Wong, Lindsey and Peters gives Wong enormous power.

Critics long ago gave up on Lindsey and Peters. They view them as bullies and blame them for mismanaging Kamehameha Schools and the estate's $10 billion in assets.

Some critics still have hope for Wong. He came into public life as a rambunctious legislator known as a champion of the powerless. They figure he can't be happy in his current role as protector of the powerful few.

Wong's friends say it pains him to wind up a distinguished career weighed down by the growing enmity of the Hawaiian people.

We'll soon see which Richard Wong stands up. If the chairman can't persuade Lindsey and Peters to face the reality that stonewalling won't possibly stop the momentum that has built against them, he can join with Stender and Jervis to make the needed changes.

They can get rid of the obstructive lawyer and end the silly talk about protecting the estate's "proprietary" data. This isn't a proprietorship; it's a charitable trust. Bernice Pauahi Bishop's will made clear that she wanted the estate's business done openly and above board.

WONG doesn't need to wait for instruction from the courts. He could put together a board majority today to run Kamehameha Schools with oversight -- not petty interference. He could find support now for using estate resources to serve more Hawaiian children instead of funding risky global deals. He could end the reign of intimidation against faculty, staff, students and alumni.

If the attorney general finds wrongdoing by Wong, he'll have to take his lumps. It boils down to whether he'd rather be a lumpy hero respected by the Hawaiian people for doing the right thing or a lumpy villain who may well be removed from his position in disgrace.

Bishop Estate Archive

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at
Volcanic Ash runs every Saturday in the Star-Bulletin.

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