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David Shapiro

By David Shapiro

Saturday, May 16, 1998

Kamehameha logo

Protecting our
confidential sources

WHO would have believed that the once-mighty Bishop Estate trustees could fall so far so fast, abandoned by the powerful allies who protected them for so many years?

The governor has sent the attorney general after them. The Supreme Court will no longer appoint trustees or hear their appeals in the state's investigation. The usually timid probate court master blistered the trustees on how they do business, as did former Judge Patrick Yim on their management of Kamehameha Schools. The Legislature moved to slash trustee pay.

It was gratifying to revisit Doug Carlson, trustee Lokelani Lindsey's PR man, on an old news conference video blaming the Star-Bulletin for the trustees' problems because we published the "Broken Trust" essay by Gladys Brandt, Walter Heen, the late Msgr. Charles Kekumano, Samuel King and Randall Roth.

"This paper has been driving this story as much as anything else," groused Carlson in what I'm sure he intended as an insult but I took as a compliment.

I'm proud that we had the backbone to publish "Broken Trust" when our competitor flinched. These distinguished citizens of unquestioned integrity had earned the right to have their say in support of the students, faculty and alumni of Kamehameha Schools.

I'm proud that our reporter Rick Daysog has broken one exclusive story after another about the dealings of the trustees and their employee, former state Sen. Milton Holt. I'm proud of the groundbreaking stories our reporter Charles Memminger did on the Bishop Estate before it became fashionable.

We knew when we published "Broken Trust" that the well-heeled trustees would aim their heavy artillery at us. Their lawyers are in court trying to force us to disclose the confidential sources in our story detailing how Holt used estate money to take legislators to hostess bars. They've asked the Internal Revenue Service to prosecute us for disclosing secret information.

We use anonymous sources sparingly and reluctantly -- only when there is no other way to get information of vital public importance. A reporter must get my permission or that of another senior editor to guarantee a source anonymity or publish information from a confidential source. We keep the promises we make.

Daysog's story about Holt entertaining legislators was of vital public interest. To the Kamehameha Schools ohana, it was an outrageous use of money Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop left to educate Hawaiian children. It raised questions about the judgment of trustees who let Holt run up the bar bills. There were implications relating to tax, lobbying and ethics laws. How could we withhold the information?

Daysog and Holt had two earlier talks that Holt ruled off the record before the on-the-record interview that led to the story. Holt said things in the initial talks that were more sensational than what we published. But we had agreed to talk off the record and needed to honor that. We keep the promises we make.

IT all goes back to the Pauahi will setting up Kamehameha Schools. The princess specifically directed her trustees to make a full annual report of receipts and expenditures -- expenditures like Milton Holt's bar tab -- and to publish the information in a Honolulu newspaper.

Why would she ask that? Perhaps to make sure her money was spent to educate Hawaiian children and not to buy the attention of bar hostesses.

We've honored the Pauahi will while her trustees are wasting the kids' money trying to subvert the full disclosure the princess wanted.

These are the last gasps of desperate people.

Bishop Estate Archive

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

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