United public workers Dayton Nakanelua dismissed as director of state for alleged “abuse and embezzlement”

Dayton Nakanelua, longtime union leader of the United Public Workers, was dismissed as director of state after a scathing audit last year, the union leadership criticized the union leadership for failing to monitor and record the expenses of union officials.

Last year, auditors for the national labor organization American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said they were “very concerned” after reviewing more than two years of internal financial records for Local 646 of the United States. ‘UPW, and suggested that the UPW board could request a refund. four union staff.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees President Lee Saunders announced that Nakanelua and UPW Tax and Member Services Administrator Jeanne Endo have been removed from their posts in accordance with an AFSCME judgment issued on Thursday.

“As president of the national union and in accordance with the AFSCME statutes, it is my responsibility to ensure that our union is managed with transparency and integrity at all levels – and to take action in the event of an emergency. Saunders wrote in a letter posted to the UPW State President’s Facebook page today. “Unfortunately, that was the case with UPW.”

Saunders added that “as a member of UPW you have the right to transparency and you have to have full confidence that your dues money is being managed wisely. As president of AFSCME, I will not support anyone who breaks this trust.

Saunders appointed Liz Ho as administrator of the local union, giving her responsibility for the day-to-day affairs of the UPW. The union represents approximately 13,000 state, county and private sector blue collar workers as well as correctional officers, nurses and others.

The audit made no mention of criminal wrongdoing, but the UPW was famous years ago in the criminal investigation of longtime, politically connected UPW State Director Gary Rodrigues. , who also served on the state’s Judicial Selection Commission.

Rodrigues was convicted in 2002 of conspiracy, embezzlement of union money, money laundering and healthcare fraud. Rodrigues served more than four years in federal prison and also paid the union $ 378,000 in restitution.

In the case of Nakanelua, Saunders cited “the abuse and misuse of union funds,” including $ 21,840 in fees on UPW credit cards issued by Nakanelua and others without proper documentation.

Last year’s audit highlighted Nakanelua’s spending on a union credit card that included $ 26,659 for meals over the two-year audit period.

The trial decision also cited Nakanelua’s decision to co-sign a check for $ 165,605 to Hawaii Productions Associates as “50% first payment” for a documentary film on UPW, a check that the president of UPW , James Wataru, refused to sign because he did not believe in payment. had been budgeted or duly authorized by the union’s state executive board.

The state director is responsible for all financial matters of the union, but “there does not appear to be any significant control over how UPW funds are spent or accounted for,” the trial ruling concluded. . “As a result, there was a possibility of abuse or embezzlement of union funds, and it happened. “

The ruling found that Nakanelua had violated the national constitution, and said he would be removed from his post and banned from holding union office for four years.

Last year’s audit found that Endo had received reimbursement for thousands of dollars in fees billed to a personal credit card that lacked sufficient documentation “or even a clear purpose,” such as 3,003.14 $ for a 27-inch iMac and thousands of dollars in gift cards, according to Saunders’ letter to union members.

Saunders said in his letter that Endo was fired for engaging in “the overall failure of the UPW’s financial management”, including mismanagement of money, failure to keep and file receipts, fail to file expense reports in a timely manner and pay invoices without the necessary documentation.

Wataru and former UPW secretary-treasurer Gerald Aqui were reprimanded for following procedures set out in an outdated 1984 union executive committee policy on contributions to political campaigns that did not comply with the constitution of the UPW.

Wataru was also reprimanded for signing expense reimbursements without Nakanelua’s approval, but the trial ruling found that none of these expenses personally benefited Wataru. Aqui, who resigned, was also reprimanded for approving expense reports without proper documentation.

Clifford “Chip” Uwaine, executive assistant of Nakanelua, was reprimanded for a technical violation of the union constitution for failing to submit expense reports for hotel and flight costs billed directly, and the division manager UPW Oahu, Loyna Kamakeeaina, was found not guilty on all counts. against her.

The AFSCME trial and audit were both sparked by charges filed by union member Alton Nosaka last year and this year against Nakanelua and other union officials. Nosaka declined to comment today on Nakanelua’s withdrawal, and Nakanelua did not respond to a request for comment.

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