Russell Yamanoha, center, records comments by HART Executive Director Andrew Robbins, right, during a press conference in February on the agency’s federal subpoenas. Yamanoha pleaded guilty to misdemeanor conspiracy charges on Tuesday but he remains at HART.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
During a press conference outside HART’s Alii Place headquarters on Thursday, Robbins stressed repeatedly that Yamanoha is not a spokesperson for the rail agency. He described him as “more of a back-office employee.”
However, Yamanoha is one of its media contacts. He often joins Robbins and other media staff at press conferences, although he didn’t attend the one held Thursday. He assisted Robbins in February during HART’s media briefings on the agency’s grand jury subpoenas, part of a separate federal criminal investigation.
Robbins was evasive Thursday when pressed for more details on the decision to keep Yamanoha on board.
“The advice that we’ve been given was that there’s no compelling reason at this point to change his employment status until we hear what the ruling from the judge will be,” Robbins told reporters.
But Robbins would not say who gave him the advice.
“I don’t want to identify which people,” he said.
Yamanoha’s election-rigging troubles stem from his time working at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1260 under its former leader, Brian Ahakuelo. As Hawaii News Now reported, Yamanoha has agreed as part of his plea deal to testify against Ahakuelo, who was indicted on 70 counts of embezzlement and wire fraud.
Yamanoha did not respond to a voicemail message left late Thursday.
Robbins said the information specialist’s day-to-day job duties haven’t changed.
Asked why Yamanoha wasn’t at the press conference Thursday, Robbins paused and then said “there’s no particular reason.”
“It’s not needed,” he added.
Sign up for our FREE morning newsletter and face each day more informed.
Will you help us?
There are upsides to being a nonprofit as we carry out our public-service mission. We don’t have a paywall on our site, charge a subscription fee, or clutter our articles with ads. But this also means that reader support sustains every aspect of what we do. Without you, we don’t exist. It’s as simple as that. By donating, you’re supporting everyone on staff—and allowing unbiased, factual, honest journalism to thrive. If you value our work, will you make a tax-deductible donation today?