- Associated Press - Saturday, May 14, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - A Honolulu union official is no longer retiring while a financial audit unfolds.

Business manager Brian Ahakuelo has denied any wrongdoing and told KHON-TV that he didn’t want to retire under a dark cloud.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers put Local 1260 in trusteeship and placed 19 union staff members on paid leave while financial issues are fixed.

“Placing a local under trusteeship is a rare occurrence, and the IBEW does not take it lightly,” IBEW spokesman Mark Brueggenjohann said. “The (May 23) hearing will determine whether the trusteeship imposed on May 6 will continue. Our primary concern is to protect the members of Local 1260 and make sure that the dues that they pay are used properly by the local.”

Ahakuelo earned more than $200,000 in 2015.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that five of Ahakuelo’s family members have worked for the union, including his wife and son. A financial filing says all five had pay ranges between about $77,600 and over $143,000.

Business managers are not prohibited under union bylaws from hiring family, according to Damien Kim, the business manager and financial secretary for another union chapter.

“If you go through local unions across the country, you have family members who work there,” Ahakuelo said. “It’s part of what we do. If you look at how many family members I have working at the union and you look at the total number of how many people who work on my staff, it’s less than 20 percent of the staff. I didn’t just go and hand-pick people. There were resumes put in, there was a vetting process and they were qualified to do the job. To go ahead and defame my family, to go ahead and defame the organization I built within the last five years . and then have people come in from the mainland and take it away from you, now that’s a tragedy.”

The local chapter represents over 3,200 workers statewide.

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