Public worker
unions ordered to
turn over health
plan records

A judge tells UPW and
HGEA to give state auditors
the information they want

By Rick Daysog

A state judge has ordered two of Hawaii's largest public employee unions to hand over financial records of their health, life and dental insurance plans to state auditors.

Circuit Judge Eden Elizabeth Hifo granted Attorney General Earl Anzai's motion for a preliminary injunction against United Public Workers and the Hawaii Government Employees Association, saying there is a compelling public interest on how the funds are administered.

Hifo also found that the state would likely succeed in proving its case that the UPW and the HGEA had previously certified that they would hand over such records to state auditors.

"She found little harm to the defendants and substantial harm to the taxpayers in the absence of an audit," said Deputy Attorney General Hugh Jones.

UPW attorney Bob Miller said the union will comply with the judge's order. Miller said, however, the state's request for the records exceeds its statutory authority and contradicts 25 years of practice.

He also said the union's position is supported by two legal opinions by the Attorney General's Office, which say the state is not entitled to such records. "We are hiding no records," Miller said.

An HGEA spokesman had no immediate response. In the past, HGEA Executive Director Russell Okata said the union had agreed to make its records available to an accounting firm hired by state Comptroller Glenn Okimoto.

Okata has said the mix-up was with the union's outside insurance provider, the Voluntary Employees Benefits Association of Hawaii.

In a 20-page complaint filed last month in state Circuit Court, Anzai alleged that the HGEA and UPW were stonewalling the state's efforts to conduct an audit of the unions' health and dental plans.

Of the state's 13 public employee unions, the HGEA and the UPW are the only Hawaii public unions that have resisted an audit of the state money they receive to provide health benefits for their members, the state said.

The state's dispute with the two unions arose in January when Okimoto asked all of Hawaii's public employee unions to consent to an audit of the state funds they receive to provide health, dental and life insurance coverage for their members.

The amounts transferred to the unions sometimes exceed the actual costs since the unions are able to negotiate more favorable rates for their members.

Under state law, the state is entitled to any savings or refunds the unions receive for providing health coverage for their members.

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