Days after an investigation into the finances of Honolulu IBEW Local 1260, its leader has announced that he’s stepping down to retire.
The Honolulu chapter was put under trusteeship by its international office to “prevent and correct financial issues within the local.”
IBEW Local 1260 represents more than 3,000 electrical workers.
Business manager Brian Ahakuelo says the timing of his retirement has nothing to do with the investigation.
Ahakuelo told KHON2 he had been planning to retire since the beginning of the year, and that the trusteeship is not a cause for concern.
KHON2 went down to the local union office at the Topa Tower in downtown Honolulu. We were told that the staff remains on paid administrative leave as officials from the international office conduct an investigation.
Ahakuelo called it nothing more than a random audit.
“I asked the question, ‘Have I done anything wrong?’ and they said no,” he said. “I said, ‘Have charges been filed against me?’ and they said no. I said, ‘Has there been a complaint filed against me?’ They said no. So I said, ‘Okay, you guys are just doing your due diligence?’ and they said yes, that was it.”
Joan Husted, a former executive director and negotiator for HSTA, the public school teachers union, said international leadership usually steps in when there are serious allegations.
“The reason most internationals take over unions is an alleged financial impropriety, money being spent inappropriately, money that can’t be accounted for, those are usually the allegations that really concern an international,” she said.
Last year, Ahakuelo earned $201,712. His wife, Marilyn, earned $105,119 as director of communication services. His son, Brandon, earned $143,274 as chief of staff, and daughter-in-law, Neiani, earned $77,656 as an executive assistant.
Brian Ahakuelo insisted they were all highly qualified for the job. Union bylaws state that their salaries should have been higher.
“So those salaries are set a long long time ago, based off of wages that our members make,” Akahuelo said. “Our members make good money. We negotiate good contracts for them.”
Husted said there’s nothing illegal about it, but it does raise eyebrows among union members.
“In HSTA, we didn’t have an anti-nepotism policy, but we had to be very, very careful so that we weren’t sending the wrong signal to the members,” she said.
Husted says the trusteeship could take at least a year, but should not affect current collective bargaining agreements.