The parent organization investigating the local electrical workers union said embattled business manager Brian Ahakuelo misused member dues for personal expenses unrelated to union business.
In a notice sent to members, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers listed a dozen allegations that range from travel expenses to Las Vegas, where Ahakuelo’s daughter and son-in-law reside, to using union assets to pay the legal fees to defend his son, Brandon, the union’s chief of staff, in a criminal case involving unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle.
Other expenses that were reimbursed by Local 1260 from 2014 to 2016 include airfare for seven members of Ahakuelo’s family not employed by the union to attend an IBEW celebration, and paying off a more than $24,000 bank loan for a truck initially owned by his wife, Marilyn, which was later transferred to the union, according to the letter signed by John O’Rourke, vice president of the international parent organization.
The IBEW also alleges that employees of Local 1260 were given company vehicles though they were not authorized to use them and that the Ahakuelo unilaterally changed personnel policies to personally benefit himself and his family.
Ahakuelo, at an impromptu news conference today at a Kakaako park, said he will not resign from his job, as he had announced two days earlier.
He said he has secured legal counsel and is also considering legal action against IBEW’s Washington, D.C.-based international union, which he said has made false allegations against him of financial mismanagement.
“They turned it into falsehoods and allegations of misappropriation of moneys, of wrongdoing by myself, which is totally false,” Ahakuelo said. “It was a witch hunt on me because there was a concern that I was getting too popular.”
Ahakuelo said he has rescinded his 30-day notice of retirement and will run for vice president of the ninth district of the parent union.
Ahakuelo said the reason the international union is bringing false allegations against him is because it was “jealous” of him and “fearful” that he would run for vice president. He said the existing vice president, John O’Rourke, called for a “witch hunt.”
Ahakuelo, 55, was business manager and financial secretary for Local 1260, representing more than 3,200 electrical workers, including Hawaiian Electric Co. and TV station employees. He was placed on paid administrative leave Friday, along with 18 of his staff, pending an audit by the international union. IBEW named Harold Dias, a former state AFL-CIO president, trustee in the interim.
In recent years Ahakuelo was criticized by subordinates for his spending of union dues, including the hiring of four immediate family members.
Ahakuelo earned $201,712 in 2015, while his wife, Marilyn, director of community services for Local 1260, was paid $105,119, according to the union’s most recent financial report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. Their son, Brandon, the union’s chief of staff, received $143,274, while daughter-in-law Neiani, executive assistant, earned $77,656. Ahakuelo’s sister-in-law, Jennifer Estencion, senior executive assistant, had a salary of $101,855, the filing shows.
The international union said it placed Local 1260 in trusteeship “in order to investigate and correct financial issues that have arisen in the local.”
Ahakuelo subsequently announced his retirement on Tuesday before changing course this morning.
A hearing to decide how long the trusteeship will last is scheduled for May 23.