EXCLUSIVE: Kamehameha Schools trustee conflict - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: Kamehameha Schools trustee conflict

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A trustee at the Kamehameha Schools is facing heavy opposition from prominent member of the school's alumni and former trustees and executives.

Since 2011, Janeen-Ann Olds has served as a board member of the $11 billion organization, which educates nearly 50,000 native Hawaiians. She's also the CEO of Sandwich Isles Communications, whose founder was convicted of looting the company in July.

In a letter to the state Probate Court, a number of influential graduates, including former Kamehameha Schools trustee Douglas Ing and Lunalilo Homes trustee Kamani Kuala'au called on the court to reject Olds' reappointment.

Sources said similar letters were sent by former Kamehameha Schools Kapalama campus headmaster Michael Chun and other members of the alumni.

"Kamehameha Schools ... deserves no less than trustees of the highest character, integrity and reputation in this community,"  said the letter signed by Ing and Kuala'au.

It was under Olds' watch that Sandwich Isles' founder Albert Hee skimmed $4 million from the company and its parent Waimana to pay for a home in California, his childrens' college tuition and phony wages for his wife. The Federal Communications Commission is now investigating the company's finances.

Olds was never charged in the case and has petitioned the state Probate Court for a second, five-year term, a job that pays about $120,000 a year.

Toni Lee, a 1959 Kamehameha Schools graduate, said she met with Olds on Monday to ask her to reconsider. She said that while Olds has served well on the board, Lee said she's doesn't want to see anything detract from Kamehameha School's educational mission.

"The right thing to do would be to withdraw her paper," said Lee.

"With Sandwich Isles under the microscope and the investigations, it's very easy to see that this is going to be a problem ... We don't need to be under a dark cloud and in a bad way right now."

Founded by the 1884 will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the Kamehameha Schools educates children and adults of native Hawaiian ancestry.

It's the state's largest private landowner and operates the Kamehameha Schools at Kapalama Heights as well as several neighbor island campuses.

The issue of trustee selection and retention is extremely sensitive here because 15 years ago, allegations of corruption and mismanagement led to the removal of former board members Henry Peters, Richard "Dickie" Wong, Lokelani Lindsey, Gerard Jervis and Oswald Stender.

Back then hundreds of students, parents and graduates marched against the former trustees, prompting investigations by the state and the IRS that brought the school to the brink of ruin. Major reforms and a massive expansion of the school's educational mission followed.

"What we went through in 1997 at Kamehameha was very difficult. And it has taken our school about 15 years to recoup through all this," Lee said.

Attorney Carroll Taylor, a trust law expert, said there's plenty of case law that says that the Probate Court should consider Olds' actions or inaction at Sandwich Isles when it considers her reappointment.

"The court appointing a trustee can consider any factors that would implicate the trustee's honesty, integrity, diligence," said Taylor.

"What's kind of interesting is that the classes people being affect by her role as a trustee and her role at (Sandwich Isles) is basically the same class of people. So if I were the appointing authority that would make me even more concerned."

Olds did not return calls. The Probate Court will hold a hearing on the matter on Oct. 8.

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