Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Friday, February 27, 1998

Legislators come to
‘rescue’ of trustees

AS a kid, bravery wasn't exactly my forte. I'd watch spooky stuff on TV with my hands covering my eyes, peering intermittently at the screen through open fingertips. I avoided horror movies, especially those starring monsters. And I dreaded those youth camps held on the other side of the island, when we'd inevitably gather around the campfire at night and listen to obake tales.

These days, a different kind of horror story is scaring the heck out of me and other residents of Hawaii. We heard an especially frightening one on Tuesday afternoon, at the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Honolulu at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

The featured speaker was Beadie Kanahele Dawson, the intrepid attorney for Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi. This spirited group of Kamehameha Schools students, parents and alumni is questioning the fitness to serve of the Bishop Estate trustees, who are in charge of the schools and the wealthy charitable trust.

Na Pua and other interested parties, including the state attorney general, are concerned about allegations involving the trustees and possible breaches of their fiduciary duty, self-dealings, credit-card abuse and millions of dollars in failed investments.

During her presentation, Dawson talked about last week's hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on three bills that would have changed the law on trustee compensation.

One of the those testifying was former House speaker and current Bishop Estate trustee Henry Peters, who said that he and his associates deserved "every penny" of their almost $1-million-a-year commissions.

What came next? Let Beadie tell the story: "After two-and-a-half hours of testimony, Judiciary Vice Chairman Brian Yamane, acting on behalf of House Judiciary Chairman Terrance Tom, who does legal work for the Bishop Estate, called for a five-minute recess.

"Yamane went to the back of the room, picked up a prepared amendment calling for a task force study on the issue, and called for a vote on the task force amendment, which had not even been formally noticed or discussed.

"Only Reps. Ed Case and Cynthia Thielen called the move 'chicken' and a 'cop out,' while the other committee members stepped behind Yamane in support of the delaying tactic of a task force study.

"Two representatives (Menor and Yoshinaga) who had not heard much if any of the testimony were then called into the room during the recess to assure a successful vote for the task force idea.

"Just prior to the vote, Rep. Robert Herkes asked the chair if he had a conflict in voting because Herkes works for one of the estate's for-profit subsidiaries. Yamane assured him there was no conflict and allowed him to vote."

In the end, the committee agreed to set up a task force to "study" the issue, an obvious stall tactic by legislators with no backbone.

BUT that isn't the most chilling part of the story. The real horror is that the House Judiciary Committee listened to the self-serving sentiments of Henry Peters and not the taxpayers of Hawaii, most of whom believe that giving $800,000 a year in salaries to five "charitable" trustees means at least $4 million is NOT being used to educate Hawaiian children.

Even more frightening, lawmakers -- namely Tom, Yamane, Herkes, Jones, Lee, Menor, Pendleton, Yoshinaga and Whalen -- actually believe that voters won't remember their shameless shenanigans come re-election time. Whoa, now that is downright spooky.

Bishop Estate Archive

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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