Head of electrical workers union retires after chapter placed in trusteeship

Head of electrical workers union retires after chapter placed in trusteeship

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The embattled head of a Hawaii electrical workers union said he has retired.

Business manager Brian Ahakuelo said he stepped down from the IBEW Local 1260, five days after the chapter was placed under trusteeship.

The 55-year-old Ahakuelo says he's done nothing wrong and that an audit now being conducted by the union's international parent will confirm that.

Ahakuelo, who has headed the union since 2011, has come under fire from some members for hiring relatives at the union. Last year, the union paid more than $600,000 in salaries and benefits to Ahakuelo and his family members.

Ahakuelo said Tuesday that the union's bylaws allow him to hire relatives and that they were paid less than the full amount allowed under those same bylaws.

"All we've done (are) good things. We've done good things for people … I've done nothing wrong," he said.

John O'Rourke, vice president of the IBEW International's Ninth District, said the trusteeship was imposed "in accordance with the IBEW's constitution and federal labor laws to prevent and correct financial issues with the local."

Longtime union leader Harold Dias has been appointed as trustee of the 2,900-member local, which largely represents Hawaiian Electric Co. employees.

Experts said an audit could uncover even more problems.

"It's a sign that there are serious bookkeeping or record keeping problems with the local union and union feels that they can't remedy it by rendering assistance so they come and do it themselves," said attorney Eric Seitz, who has represented former UPW leader Gary Rodrigues.

"In some instances, this is a precursor to fraud investigations or allegations. It may be a precursor to internal union trials."

Copyright 2016 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.