Convicted HI Union Chief Struggles to Hold Reins of Power

Despite his conviction on over 100 counts of embezzlement and fraud, and suspension from his office, Gary Rodrigues continued to wield authority over the Hawaii state govt. workers union, engineering the selection of his hand-picked successor.

On Tuesday, Nov. 19, Ex-United Public Wrkrs. (UPW) Director Gary Rodrigues was convicted of accepting kickbacks from insurers doing business with the union, and arranging “consultant” fees for family members who did little or no union work. Rodrigues’ daughter, Robin Sabatini, was also convicted. On Thursday, the 21st, the Amer. Fedn. of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) announced that it had suspended Rodrigues, and informed UPW President George Yasumoto that he had the power to appoint a temporary successor.

The next day, however, Rodrigues showed up at UPW HQ in Honolulu, and convened a state exec. bd. meeting despite Yasumoto’s insistence that he had no power to call such meetings. Then, instead of accepting Yasumoto’s appt. of Dayton Nakanelua as UPW Director, the Bd. approved Rodrigues’ choice of Dwight Takeno as temporary dir. until the statewide convention in the fall of 2003.

UPW workers angry at the Rodrigues maneuvering have begun circulating a petition asking AFSCME officials in Wash., D.C. to oust Takeno, block the possible payment of up to $750,000 in back sick leave and vacation benefits, and place the UPW into receivership. The petition also asks that the constitution be amended to require direct voting by members for all state and unit offices.A delegation from AFSCME HQ is in Honolulu investigating the siuation.

On Dec. 2, U.S. Dist. Judge David Ezra (U.S.D.C. HI, Reagan) prohibited Rodrigues from all contact with UPW officials without the permission of fed. probation officials. When he is sentenced on May 12, Rodrigues could be barred from holding office in the UPW for 13 years under the Labor-Mgmt. Reporting & Disclosure Act. But the law also allows someone convicted of embezzlement and other crimes of union corruption under the Act to request a shorter ban
of as little as three years. [Honolulu Advertiser]