March-April 2001 Home   Newsletters

May 2001

July-August 2001

President's Message (Pearl Johnson)
Office Clean Up
Vote Count June 29th @ JCC (Arlene Ellis)
Annual Meeting of the League of Women Voters of Honolulu
Voter Service Proposal (Dorothy Cornell)
Changes in Organizational Governance: A Perspective... (Colbert Matsumoto)
April 21 Member Meeting - Question and Answer Period
LWV - Honolulu Education Fund (Arlene Ellis)
Action Alert from LWV-US
Environment Meeting
New Members

April 21 Member Meeting

Question and Answer Period

Pearl Johnson and Robin Loomis report on some of the questions answered by Colbert Matsumoto, the court-appointed master for Bishop who spoke April 21 to the League's annual meeting.

Pearl Johnson reports that when asked when he first realized that something was seriously amiss at Kamehameha Schools, Matsumoto fixed the time as May 1997. An alumnus of Kamehameha Schools with whom he was having dinner told him that there was a rumor that Michael Chun, President of Kamehameha Schools had been fired (the rumor was not true) and that esteemed kupuna Nona Beamer had published a letter to the editor that was critical of the then trustees. Shocked at these accounts, Matsumoto arranged through Chun interviews of school personnel to find out what was going on. Midway through several days of scheduled interviews, Chun's secretary informed him that the remaining interviews were cancelled. When Matsumoto tried to find out why, he found a visibly shaken Chun who informed him that he had just been lambasted for having allowed Matsumoto to conduct the interviews. Feeling badly about being responsible for the trouble Chun was in, Matsumoto called Bishop Estate and took full responsibility for initiating the interviews. He was told he had to clear all interviews through the Trustees. Matsumoto wrote a letter of apology but, upon reflection, told himself, "This stinks."

Matsumoto noted that while he was conducting his review of the Trustees' accounts, Attorney General Margery Bronster faced great difficulty extracting information from the Estate. Her efforts were mired in the judicial process as she tried to obtain court orders to gain access to particular documents. Although Matsumoto had also experienced problems in obtaining access to information, he decided to take a different path. Instead of making numerous court filings to gain access to records, he filed a public report with the Court in November 1997 and complained that because he could not get the information he needed, he could not complete his job. After that, "the flow of information changed 100%".

Matsumoto gave some insights into the accounting practices of the former Trustees. He explained how the Trustees effectively concealed accumulated income, which they were required to spend on educational programs, by reclassifying it on their financial statements.

The new Trustees of Kamehameha Schools have re-instituted a number of educational outreach programs eliminated by the former Trustees. There are also ambitious plans to extend the reach of Kamehameha Schools to greater numbers of Hawaiian children through partnering with the Department of Education and other entities.

Readers of "Environment Hawaii" can learn of the actions of the Board of Land and Natural Resources in its regular feature "Board Talk". Prior to his appointment to the Board in 1995, Matsumoto had heard that the Board frequently made decisions behind closed doors, with little public input. Stifling his own deferential Island instincts, he promoted open debate and decision making consistent with the Sunshine Law. He says that the Board processes and decisions today are much more transparent than in the past.

Robin Loomis provides further reflections on the Colbert Matsumoto question period.

In answer to questions from the floor, Mr. Matsumoto said that because a nonprofit is accountable to its membership, he forced the trustees to account more fully than they had in the past. After the court appointed the interim trustees they adopted a spending policy where they spend 4% on average of the corpus annually. The net worth of KSBE is approximately $6 billion and about $200 million is available each year for the education of Hawaiian children.

The trustees established a strategic plan setting ambitious goals for the school. Although there are over 40,000 school age Hawaiian/ part-Hawaiian children in Hawaii, only 4,000 were being educated by the school in the 1996-2000 period. To address this issue the trustees want to partner with DOE and other private entities since KSBE can't educate every child.

The IRS audit was resolved in two settlements. The estate paid several million dollars to IRS and the audit process ended.

The impact on the State's economy from the sale of leasehold land and the revenues obtained is positive, because thousands of families purchased fee ownership.

Because trustees must make the best return on investment they can, many investments are made out of the state. However, their primary mission is to educate children.

League members felt privileged to learn some of the details of the swirling Bishop Estate controversy. Mahalo Mr. Matsumoto for your willingness to speak openly.

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