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Judge denies teacher’s request to halt HSTA election

    Attorney David Rosen, seated left, says his clients — Amy Perusso, Corey Rosenlee and Justin Hughey, seated with Rosen — won leadership posts in the Hawaii teachers union in a fair election, and that the union should certify the results. The Hawaii State Teachers Association board voted last weekend to reject the results of the recent election of officers and hold another vote because of complaints about mishandled ballots and other discrepancies.

A state judge on Friday denied a request by Campbell High School teacher Corey Rosenlee to block a new election of teachers’ union officers scheduled for Tuesday.

Rosenlee, who contends he was elected president of the 13,500-member Hawaii State Teachers Association, filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Circuit Court that seeks to get the HSTA to accept the results of the election. He also filed a request for a temporary restraining order to block Tuesday’s election.

Circuit Court Judge Gary Chang denied the restraining order motion.

“The court’s decision did not decide whether the prior election of HSTA officers and representatives was valid or involved any impropriety,” Rosenlee’s attorneys said in a prepared statement. “The court’s decision instead was based solely on the court finding that the court might not have jurisdiction to decide the case.”

HSTA President Wil Okabe said the union was pleased with the judge’s ruling and said HSTA is moving ahead with Tuesday’s election, which will require teachers to cast physical ballots at polling stations statewide. 

“This allows HSTA to continue to move forward with the re-vote on June 2 and ensure a fair election process that will allow all of our members an opportunity to vote,” Okabe said in a statement.

The union’s board of directors voted May 16 to reject the results of ballots cast for a new union president and other officers, and announced it would hold a new election. HSTA officials had cited voting irregularities and discrepancies for the decision, including reports that some teachers did not receive their ballots. 

Teachers voted electronically and by mail for two weeks in April for all races, and again earlier this month by mail for a runoff election for vice president.

Rosenlee says he and his running mates — King Kamehemeha III Elementary teacher Justin Hughey and Mililani High teacher Amy Perusso, who ran for vice president and secretary-treasurer, respectively — won their races “by significant margins.” But, Rosenlee’s lawsuit says, the board decided to reject the results and call for a new election “only after a majority of the board learned that (Rosenlee) had been elected and their preferred slate of candidates had been defeated” — a claim union officials have denied.

“Since no further court assistance is going to happen before Tuesday’s re-vote, it is critical that all of HSTA’s members vote this coming Tuesday,” Rosenlee said in a statement. “Teachers need to make their voices heard.”

Rosenlee previously said about 26 percent of eligible members voted in this election, higher than the 20 percent who voted in the 2012 election.

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