UPW chief to audit
union finances after
Rodrigues scandal

Takeno says benefits owed to the
ex-director will be under review

By Rick Daysog

The acting state director of the United Public Workers union said he will order an audit of the UPW's finances after a federal jury convicted his predecessor, Gary Rodrigues, of taking kickbacks and embezzling union funds.

Dwight Takeno, who was named by the UPW's executive board Friday to replace Rodrigues, also said he will hire an outside consultant to review any retirement, vacation pay or sick leave owed to Rodrigues.

"I plan to have independent auditors and accountants review all UPW finances to make sure that union money is being properly spent and properly accounted for," Takeno said.

Takeno, a longtime supporter of Rodrigues, did not name the firm that will conduct the audit. His remarks come after the UPW has come under intense scrutiny in wake of Rodrigues' conviction on 101 counts of federal money laundering, embezzlement and mail fraud charges.

A group of current and former UPW members have called for the union's mainland parent, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to place the UPW under trusteeship and replace Takeno.

The group says Rodrigues continues to exert undue influence on the union despite his resignation Friday.

They also have asked for the removal of the UPW board and have called on AFSCME to revoke any deal between the union and Rodrigues for retirement and other benefits.

Separately, AFSCME suspended Rodrigues last week and named UPW state President George Yasumoto as the union's top-ranking officer.

John Witeck, a former assistant Oahu division director for the UPW before he was fired by Rodrigues four years ago, said he was skeptical of any audit since the hiring and the scope of the audit will be determined by many of Rodrigues' supporters.

"Past audits did not reveal what happened in the case of the former state director," said Witeck, who sued Rodrigues for wrongful termination and retaliation. "It seems more for window-dressing to appease the public and members' concerns."

Meanwhile, Takeno defended his appointment as acting state director in a letter to the membership, saying the board vote was unanimous.

Some UPW members said the board vote is invalid because Yasumoto had canceled the meeting. But Takeno said the board had the authority under the union's constitution to overrule Yasumoto.

He also denied that Rodrigues exerted his influence in the selection of Takeno, saying Rodrigues was not present in the UPW's board room when members of the union's executive committee met.

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