Saturday, February 20, 1999

Bumbler or martyr?
Chun portrayal a
key dispute in trial
to oust Lindsey

The Kamehameha Schools' president
defends his record under questioning
by Lindsey's lawyers

By Rick Daysog


Is he a tortured martyr who selflessly placed the educational needs of the children and teachers at the Kamehameha Schools over his own interests?

Or is he an inept manager who lacks the basic educational background to properly run the Kapalama Heights campus?

The diverging portrayals of Kamehameha Schools President Michael Chun represents a central dispute in the trial to remove Bishop Estate trustee Lokelani Lindsey from the estate's board.

Trustees Oswald Stender and Gerard Jervis are seeking Lindsey's ouster on the grounds that she breached her fiduciary duties, mismanaged the estate-run Kamehameha Schools and usurped the popular Chun's authority.

Lindsey has argued that the school's academic program declined during Chun's tenure, prompting her to intervene.

Chun yesterday took the witness stand for the third day in the three-month-old removal trial, to answer questions from Lindsey's lawyers about his management record.

Chun told Circuit Judge Bambi Weil that while he does not have an advanced degree in education, he considers himself a strong educational leader.

Previously, Chun had testified that student admissions to four-year colleges have increased and test scores have risen during his tenure.

"I think I have a commendable reputation in education," said Chun, a former University of Hawaii engineering professor.

But Lindsey's attorney, David Gierlach, spent most of his cross-examination attempting to show that Chun helped fuel the campus controversy.

Chun conceded that he, and not the trustees, was responsible for shortening the length of teachers' contracts from the previous five-year term to the current one-year period.

The move contributed to a mood of uncertainty among Kamehameha faculty members and other staffers.

Chun also played a role in the demise of the Kamehameha Schools Association, which had served as a sounding board for teacher concerns and grievances to management.

The association's shutdown left teachers without a formal organization to voice their concerns and promoted an environment in which rumors flourished, Gierlach said.

Chun said he did not "cancel" the association, but he may have contributed to its end after expressing concerns that members wanted to form a faculty union.

The organization later dissolved after several poorly attended elections for association officers were held, Chun said.

Gierlach also grilled Chun about his financial status.

In addition to the $210,459 that Kamehameha Schools paid him for the year ending June 30, 1997, Chun said he earned an additional $62,000 last year for serving on the boards of Alexander & Baldwin Inc. and Bank of Hawaii, a subsidiary of Pacific Century Financial Corp.

In the past, Lindsey and trustees Richard "Dickie" Wong have raised concerns that Chun's outside work may distract him from his duties at Kamehameha Schools, Chun added.

Gierlach also questioned Chun about nonbid contracts that he awarded to his former employer, Park Engineering, and a former classmate, local architect Lloyd Sueda.

Chun said he awarded the two firms and their subcontractors between $1.5 million and $2 million in design and engineering work between 1988 and 1995.

But he said the work, which covered dormitory renovations and drainage projects, was awarded to the firms because they were qualified to do the work and not because their principals were friends.

Chun's testimony continues Monday.

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