Former Hawaii labor union officials ousted over allegations of financial abuse are suing their old union over claims their terminations were not properly handled.

Dayton Nakanelua, former head of United Public Workers, and Jeanne Endo, UPW’s former fiscal administrator, filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday that alleges UPW and its parent union did not afford them due process rights during a quasi-judicial union proceeding that ended with the pairs’ ouster.

Endo also alleges that UPW did not allow her back into the union’s headquarters to collect some of her personal belongings.

UPW’s parent union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

A UPW spokesperson in Hawaii was not immediately available for comment Thursday afternoon.

United Public Workers Headquarters with David Ige campaign signs in front.
Former United Public Workers officials are suing the union over their terminations. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

In 2019, Alton Nosaka, a UPW official on the Big Island, filed complaints with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board accusing Nakanelua of misappropriating PAC funds, falsifying time sheets and sending too many staffers to a convention.

Nosaka also accused Endo of using UPW’s corporate frequent flyer miles.

In the same year, the AFSCME launched an audit of union finances. The audit revealed that Nakanelua and other officials had spent thousands of dollars using union credit cards that could not be accounted for.

However, the lawsuit says that the final audit did not find any purchases to be improper.

In January, while preparing to defend themselves against the accusations from Nosaka, new complaints over misuse of unions funds were lodged against Nakanelua and Endo.

Union officials in April cleared Nakanelua and Endo of the old complaints, but found them guilty on the misappropriation charges.

They were both removed from office in May, and Liz Ho, who was head of the local AFSCME office, took over as UPW administrator. 

At the time, Lee Saunders, AFSCME president, said Hawaii union members deserve better from their leaders. 

Randall Whatoff, Nakanelua and Endo’s attorney in the case, says the union trial process amounts to a due process rights violation.

He says that what Nakanelua and Endo were ultimately charged with — misuse of funds — was not properly presented to them, so they didn’t get a chance to defend themselves.

“This is a situation where a union put them through a process that didn’t allow them to get a full, fair and transparent examination of these issues,” Whattoff said.

Federal cases like this can take one to two years, Whattoff said.

The case is assigned to Hawaii U.S. District Court Judge Jill Otake.

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