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Tuesday, May 2, 2000

Gill, Rutledge
exchange jabs amid
hotel union recount

The new tally gives Gill
four more votes than before

By Tim Ruel


After Eric Gill upset incumbent Tony Rutledge for leadership of the powerful Hawaii hotel workers' union last month, both sides vowed to make a "smooth" transition.

Instead it's been a bumpy ride for all as a Rutledge-demanded recount of the vote confirmed Gill's win today and both sides continue the bickering that started when Gill went after Rutledge's post two years ago.

On April 7, Rutledge lost the seat of financial secretary-treasurer of the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Local 5 to Gill by 39 votes out of about 5,000. Today's recount by the U.S. Department of Labor found four more votes in Gill's favor than the first count.

Rutledge, who had led the union for 14 years, called for a recount because he said the original counters from the League of Women Voters may have made mistakes. Rutledge is not expected to appeal the recount.

While the election may be over, the mudslinging that characterized their campaigns continues.

Gill asked the union's international office last week to investigate the severance pay that Rutledge paid himself and about 10 other former staffers after leaving office last month, totaling somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000.

Rutledge said the board approved the severance pay years ago.

Arlene Ilae, a Rutledge supporter and union senior vice president, said many officers have received severance before, including Gill, who used to be a board member.

Ilae, meanwhile, charges Gill with violating union bylaws by adopting Rutledge's old salary, $85,200, without the board's approval. She also said Gill broke a campaign promise to take a lower salary. Ilae is one of 11 of the board's 14 members who ran on Rutledge's ticket during the election.

"That's all pure politics," Gill said.

Gill said he doesn't need the board's approval and that he's going to lower his salary anyway, in keeping with his election promise.

"In that case, they're all wet," Gill said.

Rutledge said Gill is trying to run the ship by himself. "He wants to run it as he accuses me of running it," Rutledge said.

Union bylaws state that the board should review all salaries, when practical.

Gill also recently ended the union's contract with a San Francisco law firm that had represented the union in opposing Gill when he challenged Rutledge's leadership two years ago.

Gill, a kitchen worker at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel, tried to run against Rutledge in January 1998, but was left off the ballot because he allegedly had not paid union dues, a charge he denied.

The Labor Department challenged the election, and in December, Senior U.S. District Judge Sam King threw out the results and ordered the new election.

To Gill, retaining the same law firm that represented the union against him is a conflict of interest, so he ended the contract.

But Ilae said Gill should have discussed the matter with the board because the firm was still working on current union business.

Gill said Ilae and Rutledge are blowing up internal issues that shouldn't be made public. Gill said he has no problems with the board, other than a couple members.

"There's no news here," he said, adding that some people just want Rutledge back in office. "They're all hoping for the second coming."

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