Friday, April 23, 1999

Bronster: Job is
in ‘real jeopardy’

Margery Bronster says
Bishop trustees are influencing
state senators

By Rick Daysog


Attorney General Margery Bronster said she believes her confirmation is in "real jeopardy."

She raised the possibility that her aggressive investigation of the Bishop Estate trustees could play a role in derailing her reappointment.

In a meeting with the Star-Bulletin's editorial board yesterday, Bronster said she "cannot say with any certainty" that she will be reconfirmed by the full Senate when her four-year term as attorney general runs out on May 4.

"I have the sense that my confirmation is in real jeopardy," Bronster said. "I think that I have made some very big and very powerful enemies."

The 41-year-old Bronster has been one of the most activist attorney generals and has spearheaded the state's investigation of the multibillion-dollar Bishop Estate, and the Cayetano administration's suit against local gasoline producers for price-fixing allegations.

While the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously recommended Bronster's reappointment last week, the vote to confirm her appears to be close in the 25-member Senate.

Bronster believes Bishop Estate trustees Richard "Dickie" Wong and Henry Peters could be playing a role in the holdup, noting that Peters' secretary and the estate's attorney, William McCorriston, testified against her during a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Wong, once state Senate president, and Peters, a former speaker of the state House, were indicted by Oahu grand juries for their alleged roles in a kickback scheme involving Bishop Estate land.

Both Peters and Wong -- who have pleaded not guilty to the charges -- continue to hold substantial influence in the state Legislature.

"I've taken some stands that have been against some very influential former and current legislators, and certainly they have had a lot of influence at the Legislature," Bronster said.

McCorriston believes that much of the opposition to Bronster is widespread within the community and has little to do with the Bishop Estate controversy. He feels the attorney general's office and the Cayetano administration have successfully diverted attention from the state's fiscal and management problems by focusing public attention on its investigation of the Bishop Estate.

Yesterday, Cayetano expressed his confidence that Bronster will be confirmed but conceded that "it may be a close vote."

"I do not intend to withdraw her name, unless she asks me to," Cayetano said. "Let the Senate vote her up or down. Then let the public hold them accountable for their vote."

Senators opposed to Bronster's nomination questioned why agencies such as the Department of Education and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs are asking the Legislature for authority to hire outside lawyers. They believe Bronster has given insufficient legal support to teachers and the department in their efforts to address special-education matters.

But Bronster said Department of Education administrators have never brought such concerns to her attention. If she were aware of teachers' concerns, Bronster said, she would have tried to work out a solution with schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu. "I have a little bit of difficulty seeing that as the issue," Bronster said.

If the Senate vote goes against her, Bronster believes the Cayetano administration will continue its aggressive pursuit of the Bishop Estate trustees and local gasoline producers. But she thinks it would send a "very damaging" message to witnesses who have cooperated with the state's investigation of the trustees.

"There are lot of people who were willing to come forward because I think they felt that we were making progress," she said.

"I'm concerned how some of those people would feel if I'm not able to continue."

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