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Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Hotel workers union
placed under trustee

Bullet The issue: Local 5 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union has been placed under trusteeship.
Bullet Our view: The action is a result of the feuding between Tony Rutledge and Eric Gill, who defeated Rutledge in an election last April.

THE decision of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union to place Local 5 under trusteeship is a victory for Tony Rutledge in his battle to sabotage Eric Gill,who narrowly defeated Rutledge in the election for financial secretary-treasurer, the top job in the local, last April.

The decision means a new election will be held, giving Rutledge an opportunity to regain control of the 11,000-member local, which he had led for 14 years.

The hotel workers union was organized by Rutledge's father, Art, and has been run like a family dynasty. When another challenger, Dick Tam, had the nerve to defeat the elder Rutledge in an election in 1978, Rutledge did his best to disrupt Tam's administration and succeeded in having the international union intervene. Rutledge soon regained control -- after Tam was beaten by assailants who were never identified.

Now the same sort of thing is happening with the younger Rutledge and another challenger, Gill. Although Gill won the election for secretary-treasurer last April by 43 votes, Rutledge supporters were re-elected to the local's executive board.

They accused Gill of racism, violation of bylaws and failure to resolve grievances and complete contract negotiations.

Gill responded that Rutledge was trying to regain control of the union by making false accusations. He added that the president of the international union was "well aware of questionable things in Tony's regime and that irregularities showed up in an audit."

Rutledge still controls Unity House, which administers assets of the hotel workers and teamsters unions. He got the Unity House board to expel Gill and three other union leaders who had defied him -- the president of Local 5, the president of the teamsters and the teamsters secretary-treasurer.

Rutledge's allies on the Local 5 board got the international union to intervene by blocking agreement in hotel contract negotiations, essentially paralyzing operations. In October the pro-Rutledge group asked the international to step in and appoint a trustee.

Ron Richardson, executive vice president of the international union, said, "There has been gridlock in Local 5 to the point where the union has not been able to function." That's exactly what Rutledge was trying to achieve -- to make it impossible for Gill to conduct the union's business.

The trustee, Sherri Chiesa, is the international union's western regional director. She is expected to suspend the local's executive board and remove Gill as secretary-treasurer.

Her first task will be to conclude contracts with major hotels. When that is done, she will order new elections.

In view of the paralysis gripping the local, intervention by the international union was essential. But it should be understood that this was inspired by Tony Rutledge, who was willing to bring the local's operations to a halt in order to undermine Eric Gill.

DNA evidence

Bullet The issue: A California state judge has upheld a rape indictment identifying the suspect only by his genetic makeup and resulting in his arrest.
Bullet Our view: Hawaii authorities should recognize the increased use of DNA in developing the state's own genetic database of violent offenders.

GENETIC analysis has been used often in recent years to clear some criminal suspects and prove the case against others. Prosecutors now are using it to file charges against suspects on the basis of DNA without knowing their identities. A semen sample cited to obtain an indictment in California before the legal deadline elapsed has resulted in an arrest of a man based on a DNA match.

In 1999, authorities in Wisconsin were the first to bring charges against an alleged rapist known only by DNA evidence gathered from the crime scene, but no match has been found in that case.

In California, the genetic code of semen recovered from a rape scene was used to obtain an indictment two days before the six-year statute of limitations was to expire. A review of the state's DNA database of people convicted of sexual assault and violent crimes resulted in an arrest a month later.

California Superior Court Judge Tani Cantil-Sakauye upheld the validity of the arrest warrant while acknowledging she was sailing on "uncharted water." Defense attorney Johnny Griffin III said he would appeal the ruling, arguing that the warrant did not describe his client with "reasonable particularity," the legal standard for describing suspects in warrants.

If upheld, the ruling could vastly improve the chances of finding and prosecuting rapists believed to be strangers of their victims. Eighty percent of rapes are believed to be committed by people known by the victims.

Cases in which rapes were committed by strangers have been difficult to solve because victims often have been too traumatized to provide adequate descriptions of their assailants.

California's database of 21,000 DNA profiles has been used in making other arrests based on genetic matches. DNA also is being used across the country in relatively routine cases.

On the Big Island, analysis by FBI technicians of DNA evidence recovered at the scenes of three bombings led to the identification of a 17-year-old Hilo boy last year.

Regarded as much more precise than fingerprints, DNA analysis is destined for increased usage in criminal cases. Hawaii should heed the progress in other states in developing a DNA database that is useful in concert with others.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

Frank Bridgewater, Acting Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin