The third election this year for leadership of the Hawaii State Teachers Association will be held June 2 — the day before classes end at many campuses.
Unlike the previous two elections, this time teachers will be asked to cast their vote in person. Teachers who are unable to do so will have until May 26 to request an absentee ballot from the HSTA office.
The new election is being held after the union’s Board of Directors voted Saturday to toss out the previous results because of “voting irregularities.” The decision has been criticized on social media by a number of teachers who want more information about the vote count and the irregularities.
“This decision was not taken lightly and came after many long hours of deliberation and discussion, including legal advice as to all options to address concerns brought to Board members over the last few weeks from teachers across the state,” current HSTA President Wil Okabe said in an email to union members early Monday evening.
On one side of the election are two senior union leaders. On the other, three teachers who say they want to change the way HSTA operates.
HSTA Vice President Joan Lewis and Secretary-Treasurer Colleen Pasco are running for president and vice president and campaigning together as “Team 2015 for Hawaii Teachers.”
Corey Rosenlee, a teacher who represents the Leeward Chapter on the HSTA Board of Directors, is running for president and campaigning along with teacher and vice presidential candidate Justin Hughey as “Hawaii Teachers for Change.”
Amy Perruso is running for secretary-treasurer on the same platform as Rosenlee. Osa Tui Jr. campaigned with Lewis for the same slot.
Okabe has already served as president for the maximum two terms.
Lewis has been in the news for her role last month in helping negotiate a 1.8 percent salary increase and a lump payment of $2,000 for each full-time teacher. Rosenlee is perhaps best known for organizing the Work to Rule protests, which made national headlines in 2012.
The release of results for the election was delayed in early May when none of the candidates for vice president received more than 50 percent of the vote (a third candidate for vice president, Paul Daugherty, ran independently.)
Runoff ballots were due Friday, and the two dozen-plus-member HSTA board voted after receiving the results to hold a new election. The board meeting lasted more than 12 hours, and more than two-thirds of the board members voted in favor of a new election.
According to Okabe’s email Monday, several board members and many teachers complained about not receiving a ballot. The email also states that the company hired to run the election made several errors, “compromising the integrity of the election.”
“Over 2/3 of the board members 21 to 8 (out of 29) believed that the original election was flawed to the point that it disenfranchised members from chapters around the state,” Okabe said in the email Monday, in a paragraph that matched nearly word-for-word a comment posted on Facebook early Sunday by the “Team 2015 for Hawaii Teachers.”
“As elected representatives, they did their due diligence to follow up on concerns raised by their teachers, and found that this was the proper recourse. The decision was not easy, it was made in public forum, and despite all that they knew was going to be said to vilify them, and they stood their ground. They fought to protect the voting rights of all our members.”
Although results for the first two rounds of voting are not being released by HSTA because they were not certified, multiple indicators point to “Hawaii Teachers for Change” candidates as having secured more of the votes.
Secretary-treasurer candidate Tui emailed his supporters Saturday telling them that he had asked to be removed from the ballot after learning that he trailed Perruso in the vote count. Rosenlee voted in favor of certifying the current election and against calling for a new election on Saturday, while Lewis and Pasco voted against certification and in support of a new election.
It also appears that Rosenlee and his fellow “Hawaii Teachers for Change” candidates are consulting with an attorney about the results.
“We will be issuing a press release in the next few days after our attorney has had the chance to communicate with HSTA,” Rosenlee said Monday. “Until then we have no comment.”
As of Monday afternoon, 250 people had signed a petition on Change.org calling for the union to release information about the results and details about the discrepancies.
Results from the new in-person balloting will be go to the board for possible certification June 8.
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