Friday, December 3, 1999

Wong offers to
resign permanently
from his Bishop
Estate board post

Wong and his fellow trustees
have been ousted and an interim
board runs the estate

By Rick Daysog


Richard "Dickie" Wong, who served as chairman of the Bishop Estate's board of trustees during the most tumultuous period in its 115-year history, has offered to resign permanently from the trust.

The 67-year-old Wong, a former president of the state Senate, submitted his letter of resignation to the trust's court-appointed interim board of trustees today.

Wong's attorney, Glenn Sato, declined comment on the legal issues surrounding Wong's resignation but said Wong believes he needs to move on with his life.

Sato said Wong "hopes that Bernice Pauahi Bishop's will is protected, the estate prospers and Kamehameha Schools continue to educate children of Hawaiian ancestry."

The resignation, which requires court approval, settles a suit seeking his permanent removal from the Bishop Estate board. The estate's interim board has alleged that Wong and fellow trustee Henry Peters jeopardized the estate's tax-exempt status, took excessive compensation and neglected the estate's core educational mission.

The interim board -- retired Adm. Robert Kihune, former Iolani School headmaster David Coon, American Savings Bank executive Constance Lau, local attorney Ronald Libkuman and retired Honolulu Police Chief Francis Keala -- sued for the removal of the former trustees after the Internal Revenue Service threatened to revoke the estate's tax-exempt status.

On May 7, Probate Judge Kevin Chang temporarily removed Wong, Peters, Lokelani Lindsey and Gerard Jervis from their $1 million-a-year trustee posts.

Peters is expected to contest the interim board's permanent removal suit, and his trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 13.

Despite his resignation, Wong will continue to face legal actions stemming from the 2 1/2-year Bishop Estate controversy.

The state Attorney General's office is asking the state probate court to fine Wong and his fellow trustees for allegedly mismanaging the trust. The IRS, after investigating the estate and its trustees since 1995, may also seek penalties against Wong for allegedly taking excessive compensation.

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