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National Audit Cites Concerns Over Hawaii Union Spending

Catherine Cruz
United Public Workers, which represents trash collectors and other blue-collar workers, is the subject of an audit by its parent organization, AFSCME.

A national labor union conducted an audit of its organization in Hawaii and found what it said is excessive spending and a lack of transparency by some staff.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said it became “greatly concerned” after reviewing the internal financial records of the United Public Workers in Hawaii.

The December audit found thousands of dollars in union funds spent on restaurants, airfare and other costs without proper supporting documentation.

The organization has about 13,000 members in Hawaii and represents county, state and private-sector workers.

The union spent more than $5.6 million in union dues on legal fees from 2017 to mid-2019, the audit said.

The report cited staffing problems and an outdated accounting system and said practices were “in clear violation of the (AFSCME) Financial Standards Code, and are of serious concern."

The audit said nearly $293,000 was spent on airfare from January 2017 to July 2019.

The report also singled out spending by State Director Dayton Nakanelua on one union credit card that included $26,659 for meals during that period.

Nakanelua declined to discuss details of the report because the audit was intended to be an internal report dealing with confidential union records, he said.

About half of the concerns raised by the auditor were addressed and the union executive board was presented with the entire audit report in a Feb. 15 meeting, Nakanelua said.

Nakanelua accepts “sole and full responsibility for the findings and the deficiencies pointed out by the AFSCME audit,” he said.

Nakanelua plans to brief the union membership on the audit in a series of meetings, he said.

“I have, in my view, an obligation to get out to the membership to provide a report to the membership,” he said.

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