Saturday, April 28, 2001

Teamsters leader hit
with restraining order

By Lyn Danninger

A Unity House employee has petitioned Honolulu District Court for a temporary restraining order against Teamsters Local 996 President Mel Kahele, claiming she was harassed by him and a group of associates during an April 12 teachers rally at the State Capitol.

In a complaint filed April 17, Theresa Anne Kong Kee, a Unity House program director, said she was setting up a Unity House tent at the rally to provide soft drinks for teachers when she was approached by Kahele, Teamster employee Candida "Candy" Yamato and approximately 10 other individuals who began to take sodas from her cooler.

Kong Kee said she explained to Kahele that the sodas were for the teachers and asked him to put them back in the cooler

Kong Kee said Kahele became belligerent, asking one of his associates to take a picture of him being "denied his Unity House benefits."

Kong Kee said she asked Kahele and his group to leave and obscenities were then exchanged. Kong Kee said Yamato subsequently charged at her, threatening bodily injury. Kong Kee claims she was then pushed by Yamato.

Kong Kee said her co-workers then intervened to prevent further altercation.

In her petition for the restraining order, Kong Kee said Kahele and his associates have become increasingly hostile toward Unity House workers since he and others were removed from the Unity House Board of Directors. In her petition, Kong Kee said she fears further confrontations could occur.

Unity House is the 50-year-old non-profit corporation established to administer millions of dollars in assets for union members and spouses.

Kahele said he had not been served with a copy of the order and was not familiar with all the details of the complaint. But he said he believes Kong Kee's charges are without merit.

"She's filed a frivolous and unfounded (temporary restraining order) with no merits. I'm confident the judge will dismiss it," he said.

Kahele, at one time a member of the Unity House board, was one of four high-ranking union officials accused of plotting to "steal" Unity House assets and split them between two unions. The four were subsequently ousted from the board in October.

Later that same month, Kahele narrowly won re-election as president of the Teamsters.

The temporary restraining order is effective for 15 days from the date of filing, said Kong Kee's attorney, Denise Sangster.

A hearing date has been set for May 2 to determine if the order will be extended or terminated. Sangster said she will be asking the court to grant to extend the order for the maximum allowable period of three years.

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