Monday, April 2, 2001


Huge trove of
political intelligence
shows estate
targeted opponents

The Bishop Estate sought to
discredit backers of leasehold
conversion measures


By Rick Daysog

WHEN STATE AND CITY INVESTIGATORS searched former Kamehameha Schools employee Namlyn Snow's office, they discovered a treasure trove of political intelligence worthy of the secret files of J. Edgar Hoover.

Secrets of the Trust The June 26, 1999, search -- which was handled by the Attorney General's Office and the Honolulu Police Department's white-collar unit -- turned up extensive records on the trust's lobbying efforts, political files on isle lawmakers and logs of campaign contributions from trust cronies to lawmakers friendly to the estate's interests.

The records also show that trust officials investigated the personal lives of its critics.

In a July 1993 report entitled "Government Relations Department Strategic Directions and Initiatives," Snow wrote that the trust's Government Relations Division investigated the leader of a lessee group known as the HOBO Alliance. HOBO, which stands for Homeowners Oppressed by Bishop-Savio Organization, was a prime mover behind the city's mandatory lease-to-fee conversion law.

HOBO's head, Snow's report alleged, purchased the fee to his Hawaii Kai townhouse from the estate in the late 1980s, then offered to sell it five years later at 150 percent markup. While Snow's report did not mention the group leader's name, she presumably was referring to Bob Clark, HOBO's president.

The report went on to say that the estate's lobbyist shared that and other information about lessees and trust critics with state legislators, City Council members, estate support groups and the local media.

Clark said that the estate misrepresented his situation in that he had offered to sell his unit only after he conducted more than $150,000 worth of renovations. Clark said he never sold and continues to live in the Hawaii Kai townhouse.

"They made out that we were out to profiteer in the Hawaii market, which of course was not true," Clark said. "It definitely was an attempt to intimidate me."

Snow, who died in May 1999, was never interviewed by state investigators.

The trust also targeted a well-known real estate expert who published several articles critical of the estate's land prices. While the report does not name the individual, it presumably referred to Mike Sklarz, the former research director of Prudential Locations Inc.

Snow's report criticized Sklarz for buying the fee for a condo and a single-family home from the estate under the threat of mandatory conversion. The implication was that Sklarz's purchases contradict his criticism that the estate was charging too much for the fee.

Sklarz said he was not surprised that the estate made background checks on him and attempted to discredit him. In addition to his criticism of the trust's leasehold prices, Sklarz has served as an expert witness for lessees in several lawsuits concerning the lease-to-fee conversion process.

Lessees were not the only targets of the estate's intelligence gathering. According to testimony from a former staffer, the estate's lobbyists kept 5-inch-thick binders on political candidates that included news clippings, candidates' nomination papers, their voting record and lawmakers' personal property records, according to testimony from a former staffer.

WHILE THE POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE may have been part of the estate's efforts to track some 1,000 to 1,500 bills that trust lobbyists tracked each year, it underscores the near obsession with lawmakers' voting records and personal habits.

One of the files discovered in Snow's office -- a 1989 report authored by trust land manager Robert Lindsey entitled "Who's Who of in Hawaii County Government" -- provided extremely candid portrayals of the county's elected officials.

For instance, Lindsey's report characterized former Big Island Mayor Stephen Yamashiro as a "shrewd, hardworking, vindictive politician." Lindsey also wrote that he and Yamashiro, then a city councilman, "run in the same circle of friends" and that he helped Yamashiro in the 1984 and 1988 elections.

On the other hand, Lindsey described former Hawaii Councilwoman Helene Hale as fickle, indecisive, "a pain in the okole" and "maybe even pupule (crazy)."

Hale, now a state representative, said she was not surprised by the report's characterization and noted that she was often at odds with the Big Island's old-boy network.

Lindsey said he has since gotten to know Hale better, adding that she once helped a group of Kona farmers with whom he was working.

Bishop Estate Archive
Kamehameha Schools

All the Princess’s men

The influence of Kamehameha Schools under the trustees ousted in 1999 was widespread. Here are a few of the key political players connected to the estate.

Secrets of the Trust

Former state Rep. Robert Herkes

>> Background: Hotel industry executive who won a seat on the Hawaii County Council in 1983 and represented the Big Island in the state House until last year.

>> What: Until recently was an executive at the estate's Kamehameha Investment Corp. subsidiary.

>> Status: Resigned from the trust and stepped down from the House last year and ran unsuccessfully for Big Island mayor.

Former state Sen. Milton Holt

>> Background: Kamehameha Schools graduate, former trust employee and longtime friend of ex-trustee Henry Peters.

>> What: Trust vendors allegedly laundered $30,000 of Holt's campaign bills in 1996, leading to state and federal investigations. Holt also used his Kamehameha Schools credit card for cash advances at Nevada casinos and to entertain several lawmakers at local hostess bars and restaurants.

>> Status: Served one-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to a federal mail fraud charge.

Former state Sen. Marshall Ige

>> Background: Kaneohe legislator served in House with ex-trustee Peters.

>> What: Wife's company leased agricultural lands in Haiku area from trust. Trust vendors allegedly laundered $18,000 of Ige's campaign debts in 1996.

>> Status: Lost re-election bid in 2000. Interim board canceled Haiku lease due to delinquent payments. Has settled the state's criminal complaint alleging he abused campaign finance laws. Separate theft and money laundering charges are pending.

Larry Mehau

>> Background: Longtime friend of ex-trustee Richard "Dickie" Wong and Democratic Party power broker. Associate of former Govs. John Burns and George Ariyoshi.

>> What: Former trustees paid his firm, Hawaii Protective Services, $470,000 a year to provide security services at Kamehameha Schools' Kapalama Heights campus. Also attended a 1999 meeting with Wong and four state senators who voted to oust then-Attorney General Margery Bronster.

>> Status: Estate's interim board terminated Mehau's security contract in 1999.

State Rep. Joseph Souki

>> Background: Former state House speaker and Maui friend of ex-trustee Lokelani Lindsey.

>> What: Maui developer Everett Dowling paid Souki a $132,000 commission in 1998 after the estate bought a 100-acre Maui parcel from Dowling.

>> Status: Still serving as Democrat representative for Maalaea-Wailuku.

Yukio Takemoto

>> Background: Former state budget director and part of former Gov. John Waihee's inner circle. Resigned as budget director in 1993 after special state Senate committee investigated nonbid contracts issued by Takemoto. Joined the estate soon after as a consultant and was later named principal executive for budget and review.

>> What: In 1998 the state Attorney General's Office alleged that Takemoto helped funnel improper campaign donations from trust vendors to the Holt campaign. The state later determined there was insufficient evidence to charge Takemoto but said he should not have been engaged in political fund raising.

>> Status: Under recent trust reorganization, serves as director of the Kamehameha School's Facilities Development and Support Division.

Former state Rep. Terrance Tom

>> Background: Attorney and former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Served with Peters in House.

>> What: Former trustees paid Tom a $4,000-a-month retainer for questionable legal work.

>> Status: Lost re-election bid in 1998. Estate's interim board terminated his legal retainer.

Former Gov. John Waihee

>> Background: Longtime friend of ex-trustee Gerard Jervis.

>> What: Former trustees paid Waihee's Washington, D.C.-based law firm, Verner Liipfert Bernhard McPherson & Hand, more than $1 million to lobby against federal law limiting trustees' pay. Also conducted extensive research into moving the trust outside of Hawaii.

>> Status: Trust Chief Executive Officer Hamilton McCubbin terminated Verner Liipfert last year.

Bishop Estate Archive
Kamehameha Schools

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