Exclusive: Feds probe local union - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Exclusive: Feds probe local union

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Hawaii News Now has learned that federal authorities are investigating the possible misuse of union assets by former Hawaii Painters Union officials.

Sources say investigators with the U.S. Labor Department and the IRS are looking into allegations of personal use of cars and trucks and other perks.

Filings with the Labor Department show that the Painters Union District 50 spent more $200,000 in recent years to buy at least 10 SUVs for staffers' use.

The alleged misuse of vehicles occurred under the watch of Lynn Kinney, the union's longtime business manager, who retired from his $281,000-a-year job in December.

The union said the 62-year-old Kinney stepped down because he wanted to spend more time with his family. Kinney could not be reached for comment.

Union officials told Hawaii News Now that staffers were allowed to drive their work cars home but were required to reimburse the union for any personal use. In recent years, the union sold off the cars, resulting in a loss of about $117,000.

The perks are on top of a salary scale that's the highest in Hawaii labor circles.

According to its annual filings with the Labor Department, 10 of the union's staffers earned more than $100,000, which is double what the average painter in Hawaii earns. The filings also show that the union paid one of its administrative aides over $97,000.

By contrast, the hotel workers union, which has about 10,000 members, pays none of its staffers more than $90,000.

The filings also show that Kinney's son Nathaniel was the union's second highest paid executive at $151,000. He has since left the union to become an executive assistant with Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, where his pay is about half what he earned at the union.

Executive pay experts say the salaries are not only the highest among unions in state but are among the top 25 percent for like-sized labor organizations in the U.S.

"It's way at the top," Linda Lampkin, director of research at ERI Economic Research Institute Inc. said in a telephone interview from Denver.

Current and former union officials say they are unaware of the federal inquiries. Union leaders deny any wrongdoing and say the union's international organization is doing its own audit of the union's finances as part of a transition to ease in the new management.

Kinney has headed District 50 of the Painter's Union for about 15 years. He was replaced by union official Ryden Valmoja.

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