Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement & Political Manipulation at America's Largest Charitable Trust

Discussion Questions

  • Chapter 7:  The “Black and Blue” Panel
    • On page 89 the authors describe a number of connections between the Judicial Selection Commission and Bishop Estate, and describes it as “a bit too cozy.”  What are they suggesting?  Why would anyone be critical of a close connection between those two organizations?
    • The authors strongly imply that the Supreme Court justices decided ahead of time that they wanted to select John Waihee to be the next Bishop Estate trustee.  Do you agree?  Why or why not?
    • Assuming that the justices wanted to select John Waihee as the next Bishop Estate trustee, why didn’t they just do it?  Why would they form a blue-ribbon screening panel to create a short list of candidates if they already knew who they wanted to appoint?
    • Advisors to the new UH President told him to turn down Chief Justice Moon’s invitation to serve on the blue-ribbon panel because it would be “too political.”  What does “political” mean in this context?  Is it necessarily bad when something is “political?”
    • Why do you think others on the panel wanted Gladys Brandt to serve as its chairperson?  What does a chairperson actually do?  To what extent does a chairperson affect how a group will function? 
    • Gladys Brandt suggested that the list be limited to people who had the support of a majority of panel members.  She wanted to avoid “horse trading.”  What does that mean?  Is it fair to require majority support just to put a name on a short list?  Why?
    • Bobby Pfeiffer wanted to know if the justices would pick from the panel’s list even if it had only one name on it.  Why was this important to Pfeiffer?  What was his concern?
    • Gary Rodrigues was an exceptionally powerful person at the time of the blue-ribbon panel, yet when he threw a tantrum the chairperson did not budge.  In fact, she chided him for acting like a child.  Do you think most chairpersons would have reacted the same way?  If you had been the chairperson of the panel, how would you have handled the situation?
    • When Brandt handed the panel’s short list to the justices, they asked, “Where’s his name?” and Brandt just assumed that they were referring to John Waihee.  Why do you think she assumed that?
    • When Pfeiffer heard that the justices threw out the panel’s list he swore that he would never again serve on a government panel in Hawaii.  Similarly, Brandt started referring to the panel as the “black and blue” panel, as if they had been abused.  Why were Pfeiffer and Brandt so upset?
    • Beginning on page 94 the authors describe a secret, “smoking gun” memo to Chief Justice Moon.  They say it is “evidence of behind-the-scenes manipulation?”  In your own words, what is a “smoking gun” memo, and why are the authors so troubled by this particular memo?
    • The final paragraph of this chapter says there was a chance that someone would sue the justices “for breaching the fiduciary duties they accepted when they agreed to select trustees.”  What is a fiduciary duty, and in what way might the justices have breached their duties?
    • The authors write that the justices had “a strong personal incentive not to cooperate with any investigation of Bishop Estate trustees.”  What was that incentive? 
    • Later in the book, it’s revealed that the justices refused to cooperate with the attorney general’s investigation of trustee selection.  They did not publicly explain their reasons, but privately said it was because the attorney general wanted to “trick” them into making inconsistent statements.  Is that a good reason to refuse to cooperate?
    • Later in the book, it’s revealed that the justices said they would not respond if the attorney general attempted to force them to answer questions about their role in trustee selection.  Should someone from one branch of government be able to force a person from another branch of government to cooperate in an investigation?  Why or why not?