Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

The mighty fall
mighty hard

I can think of a few ousted Bishop Estate trustees who must be laughing their heads off and high-fiveing each other all over the place at the fall of Kamehameha Schools Chief Executive Officer Hamilton McCubbin.

Who can blame them? After many seamy allegations of malfeasance and insider dealing, the five disgraced trustees of what was then Bishop Estate and now is called Kamehameha Schools were forced to vacate their posts. A new group of trustees -- a blue-ribbon panel of community leaders -- were brought in to win back public trust in the state's largest public trust and save the reputation of the richest private school in the country.

To that end, the trustees brought in McCubbin as the Protestant institution's first CEO in its 119-year history. McCubbin, a Kamehameha graduate, came back home from the University of Wisconsin, where he had been a dean. Though I don't believe McCubbin ever publicly claimed he was a virtuous man, his very employment and yearly salary of $350,000 implied virtue. Especially coming after the shabby conduct of previous estate officials. The whole point of his appointment and the installation of the new trustees was to herald a new era of virtuosity for the schools, sadly defaced by the graffiti of greed of the previous administration.

We are learning that there are few saviors anymore. Just future fallen figureheads.

McCubbin resigned abruptly last week amid rumors that he was engaged in some sort of hanky-panky with an underling. Although he professed there was nothing special about his leaving and that he had intended to be a "transition" figure all along, the fact that he decamped shortly after signing a new fat three-year contract hinted there was something else going on.

It didn't help matters when it was learned that the University of Wisconsin paid $85,813 to a female professor who claimed McCubbin had sexually harassed her. While he denies that, the motis operandi of the Wisconsin charges and the current rumors of inappropriate personal involvement with a Kamehameha staffer are eerily similar.

AFTER BILL CLINTON made it OK to sexually harass subordinates, it seems unfair that McCubbin should lose his job over mere rumors of impropriety. But this is the Squeaky Clean, New and Improved Kamehameha Schools, and McCubbin's alleged interoffice sporting recalls similar hi-jinks by at least one of the previously disgraced trustees.

Author H.L. Mencken said beware of "uplifters," and the warning rings true today.

The highly paid moral leader Bill Bennett -- who has made a living lecturing the country on virtue -- was knocked off his high horse by his gambling addiction last week. Jesse Jackson sabotaged his own holier-than-thou image by having an affair. Who can forget those evangelical hypocrites Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart?

While McCubbin wasn't preachy, he rode in on the revival-like bandwagon that drove Henry Peters, Dickie Wong and the other trustees out of office. He knew that as CEO of a huge religion-based school, he was going to be held to a high moral standard.

The moral? Before you put yourself up on a pedestal, remember, the view may be great, but, buddy, you have a long way to fall.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. E-mail


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