Russell Yamanoha, who pleaded guilty last month to a misdemeanor conspiracy charge of helping a union rig a vote in 2015, is out at the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

HART Executive Director Andrew Robbins confirmed Thursday that Yamanoha no longer works at the local rail agency. Robbins declined to specify whether Yamanoha was fired or left voluntarily, saying it’s a personnel matter.

The former sportscaster had served as an information specialist at HART and often served as a media contact.

HART spokesman Bill Brennan said he did not have the date of Yamanoha’s departure. He joined the agency in July 2017.

Yamanoha’s tenure there recently came under scrutiny, however, after he pleaded guilty to a 2015 vote-rigging scheme during his time at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1260. As part of his plea deal, Yamanoha agreed to testify against his former boss there, Brian Ahakuelo, who was indicted on 70 counts of embezzlement and wire fraud.

vHART Executive Director Andrew Robbins press conference at Alii Place.
Russell Yamanoha, center, often assisted HART Executive Director Andrew Robbins, right, during press conferences and served as a local media contact for the agency. Robbins confirmed Thursday that Yamanoha has left HART. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

While Yamanoha’s conviction doesn’t involve HART, the rail agency has separately struggled with its own image and efforts to recover public trust as it oversees completion of the state’s largest-ever public works project.

HART received three federal grand jury subpoenas in February and an unspecified number of rail employees also later received orders, indicating the agency has become ensnared in a separate criminal investigation.

Nonetheless, agency leaders were reluctant to dismiss Yamanoha immediately after he pleaded guilty. Last month, Robbin said that he saw “no compelling reason” to fire Yamanoha and that HART would wait until his sentencing in December to decide what, if any, action should be taken.

“At this point in time, he’s doing a good job at HART and there’s no real valid reason for us to change his employment status,” Robbins said during a Sept. 5 media briefing.

On Thursday, Robbins declined to say whether he still stands by those statements.

He also declined to say whether HART has a severance, settlement or other agreement with Yamanoha.

Yamanoha did not respond to requests for comment Thursday. Last year he earned a salary of $86,304, according to Civil Beat’s searchable public employee salary database.

In September, Robbins said he was being advised how to handle the situation with Yamanoha but wouldn’t say who was giving the advice.

Read Yamanoha’s plea deal with the U.S. Attorney for Hawaii here:

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