Wednesday, December 4, 2002

UPW members Cal Malina, left, Paul Billand and Keith Faufata, holding a stack of signatures, spoke yesterday about their petition to oust UPW State Director Dwight Takeno.

Rodrigues’ acts
prompt warning

The labor chief tried
to harass federal officials,
the U.S. attorney says

By Rick Daysog

U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo said Gary Rodrigues, the convicted former United Public Workers state director, and his supporters made a mockery of the federal court and could face criminal charges for attempting to intimidate federal prosecutors and investigators.

In his first public comments on Rodrigues' Nov. 19 conviction for embezzling union funds and accepting kickbacks, Kubo said his office will request that the former labor leader be detained once he is sentenced May 12, despite his appeal.

"I believe these personal attacks and malicious actions were clearly done with intent to mock, harass and intimidate," Kubo said. "I am putting these people on notice that they are getting close to crossing the line, which could result in them being charged with another federal offense."

He added: "As the United States attorney for Hawaii, I will not tolerate this type of conduct against any member of my office or any federal law enforcement officer."

Shortly after his verdict was read, Rodrigues directed his 9-year-old granddaughter's attention to prosecutors and repeatedly told her to "remember those faces." Rodrigues' supporters called prosecutors "pilau" and mocked witnesses and federal attorneys during the trial, prosecutors alleged.

Rodrigues also knocked a microphone out of the hands of a television reporter as he left the courthouse that day.

Rodrigues' attorney, Doron Weinberg, argued that the reporter lost control of the microphone and that Rodrigues was expressing his frustration at what he believed to be an unjust verdict.

Kubo said there was an abundance of evidence that showed Rodrigues took part in a "long pattern of corruption, fraud and embezzlement."

He also noted that the federal investigation is ongoing, despite Rodrigues' conviction. He declined to elaborate.

"The evidence was plentiful; it was clear, it was strong, it was powerful, it was overwhelming, and it was uncontradicted and unanswered by the defendants," Kubo said.

At trial, Weinberg offered no defense, saying the prosecution had failed to prove its case.

Rodrigues, the 12,000-member UPW's state director since 1981, faces up to 20 years for each count of money laundering and health care fraud, and up to five years for mail fraud and embezzlement. The kickback charges carry a maximum three-year jail term.

His conviction has created turmoil for the UPW. The union's mainland parent, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has suspended Rodrigues, prompting him to resign as the UPW's leader.

At the same time, UPW rank-and-file members are circulating a petition calling for AFSCME to place the local union in receivership, and remove the union's 34-member board and Rodrigues' successor and longtime supporter, Dwight Takeno.

Petition organizers said they collected about 500 signatures from UPW members during the past several days and plan to collect hundreds more.

E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --