Friday, March 12, 1999

UPW leaders ask
for Rodrigues probe

Three leaders ask the union
to examine fund-mishandling
allegations against the state director

By Ian Lind


Three rank-and-file leaders of the United Public Workers have appealed to their international union to investigate "the mishandling and possible misappropriation" of union funds by UPW State Director Gary Rodrigues.

The probe was requested in a Jan. 22 letter addressed to Gerald McEntee, international president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The letter was signed by the chief stewards for the union at three city agencies: Keith A. Chudzik of the Board of Water Supply; Keith Faufata of a Wastewater Management division of the Department of Environmental Services; and Angel Santiago of automotive and equipment services of the Facilities Maintenance Department -- and accompanied by petitions signed by about 300 union members.

The three men have declined to publicly discuss their request to AFSCME, citing concerns about union procedures, but copies of their letters were obtained by the Star-Bulletin from other sources.

In a follow-up letter to McEntee on March 3, the three suggested it would be appropriate for AFSCME to suspend Rodrigues and other UPW officers while the investigation proceeds, but stopped short of directly asking for their removal.

The request for an investigation was prompted by the failure of Rodrigues and members of UPW's state executive board to justify or explain several questionable transactions detailed in a series of Star-Bulletin articles, the letters state. Among the issues raised:

BulletWhether union dues were used to settle a sexual harassment complaint against Rodrigues by his former secretary.

BulletWhether Rodrigues personally profited from the construction of three log buildings used for union offices on the neighbor islands. Log Structures Inc., a company owned by Rodrigues, was until recently the sole authorized dealer for the Idaho firm that supplied the log building materials to the union.

BulletWhether UPW funds and personnel were used to build and maintain Rodrigues' log house in Bend, Ore., during union-paid staff "retreats."

The March 3 letter says Rodrigues should be charged with violating the union constitution if an investigation shows these allegations are true, if he took these actions without proper authority, or "if any of the financial reporting was knowingly falsified or presented in a vague and misleading way for approval" by the union board.

Honolulu attorney Robert F. Miller, who represents UPW in the matters cited, yesterday declined comment.

Rodrigues has refused to answer questions from the Star-Bulletin about these issues.

Elizabeth Clancey, director of AFSCME's Hawaii-area office, said the local office is not involved, and the matter is being handled in Washington.

AFSCME spokesman Tony Copeland said today the complaints were received, and McEntee has responded that the international union will not pursue an investigation at this time. "Basically, if they believe the allegations are true, they have the right to pursue remedies under our international constitution," Copeland said.Union procedures spell out how formal charges lodged against any official or member would be handled, but the letters regarding Rodrigues only requested an investigation, apparently because UPW officials have blocked members from reviewing union records needed as evidence to document formal charges.

The Oahu executive board "refused to answer our questions or provide information on how the union's funds were spent," and refused to allow members to review minutes of state executive board meetings, the stewards said in their March 3 letter to McEntee.

This refusal to disclose information violates UPW's Bill of Rights for union members, which provides "the right to a full and clear accounting of all union funds at all levels," the letter says.

McEntee has campaigned heavily in favor of measures to increase financial accountability during AFSCME's most recent international convention, held in Honolulu last August.

"The one thing you will not -- we will not -- that I will not and cannot -- tolerate is the abuse of members' dues," McEntee said during a major speech to the convention, where he won authority for the international union to review the books of every local union or affiliate with more than 2,000 members.

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