Kamehameha schools struggle to replace an outgoing trustee
Efforts to find a successor for a prominent trustee of Hawaii’s richest Hawaiian trust have been stalled as a committee set up to select candidates withdrew the names of the three nominees for the post.
The decision of the Kamehameha School Trustee Selection Committee comes just two months after the committee nominated the names of three candidates to succeed outgoing Trustee Micah Kane, a prominent Honolulu executive who is also CEO of the Hawaii Community Foundation.
The committee has now returned to the drawing board.
Officially referred to as the Trustees of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate, the Trustees of the Kamehameha Schools oversee some $ 9.5 billion in assets that are used to help educate and serve people of Native Hawaiian ancestry.
Trust was at the center of a scandal in the 1990s involving prominent figures from all three branches of government in Hawaii, which is recounted in the book “Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement & Political Manipulation at America’s Largest Charitable Trust,” by Randy Roth, Professor of Trust and Estate Law and Samuel King, Retired Federal Judge.
Exposure to the mismanagement of the trust has led to many reforms, including the processes for appointing trustees, including the creation of a steering committee to support a process managed by the inheritance court, which oversees the estate.
In February, the committee presented the names of three people: Keith Fernandez, a leading real estate developer; Eric Tom, an executive at a tech company; and Dr. Gregory Yim, a physician. But in a document filed with the State Circuit Court in Honolulu, the steering committee said that after announcing the candidates, it “received information and comments which now require the steering committee to withdraw” their candidates. names.
The committee also said the committee could not complete the process of selecting a trustee to succeed Kane. Finally, the committee said it would no longer consider public comments submitted anonymously “or submitted without the proper permission to speak on behalf of another person, group, business, organization or other entity or affiliation received. during the public consultation period ”.
Michael Pietsch, a title business executive who sits on the committee, declined to comment and referred questions to his colleague Michael Rawlins, who runs a security firm. Rawlins declined to comment, pointing to the document filed with the court.
Although the document makes it clear that the committee is removing the names of Fernandez, Tom and Yim, it leaves many questions unanswered. Roth said he found the document puzzled.
“Whoever wrote it was incompetent or was intentionally trying to cover up what was going on,” Roth said.
Esther Kiaaina, a Honolulu city councilor and member of a hui of prominent Native Hawaiians following the case, agreed. She said she and her members were particularly concerned about what appears to be a lack of transparency.
“We are all very concerned that the committee is trying to bypass transparency,” she said.
Kiaaina said she and others have previously expressed concerns about the lack of diversity among estate trustees. Four of the five directors are men, she said.
Perhaps more important, she says, is that trustees tend to be from the business or corporate world. In addition to Kane, chairman of the board Lance Keawe Wilhelm , for example, is a real estate developer, vice president Robert nobriga an officer of a financial services company; Elliott Mills a hotel setting and Pink Crystal a corporate lawyer.
Kiaana said it is not surprising that the selection committee tends to choose male candidates, as five of the seven members are men. Besides Pietsch and Rawlins, the committee consists of Jason Fujimoto, an executive of a construction company; Robert Fujioka, a retired banker; Douglas Goto, who runs a financial services company; Kaiulani Sodaro, who works for a resort company, and Amanda Harbottle.
Frances Miller, who now teaches trust and estate law at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii, said a key question was how the committee was chosen.
“Who selects the selectors?” she said.
Kiaaina said restarting the committee could turn into something positive if it leads to a more transparent and inclusive process.
“Maybe it’s a chance for us to pause and say, ‘Can we start over? “, Did she say. “This is a good time for us to think deeply and ask ourselves, ‘Should we continue to accept this? We shouldn’t have to protest in the streets to make our voices heard. “