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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, November 22, 2002

Rodrigues out as union leader

By David Waite
Advertiser Courts Writer

The parent organization of the United Public Workers announced yesterday that Gary Rodrigues has been suspended as head of the union.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees International Union's announcement said the suspension was the result of a verdict reached by a federal court jury on Tuesday that Rodrigues was guilty of 100 criminal counts including mail fraud, money laundering and embezzlement.

Rodrigues did not respond yesterday to a request to comment on the announcement by the international union suspending him as the union's state director, and officials at the international's headquarters in Washington, D.C., could not be reached to comment further.

Rodrigues has served as head of the 12,000-member United Public Workers union for the past 21 years.

Doron Weinberg, a lawyer who represented Rodrigues during the just-completed federal trial, has said that under federal labor laws, Rodrigues could not be forced out of his job until he is sentenced, which will likely be at least two months from now.

But yesterday's suspension announcement, if it cannot be challenged and is allowed to stand, hastened Rodrigues' departure from the union's top position.

Once he is sentenced, federal law will prohibit Rodrigues from holding office within the UPW for 13 years from the date of his sentencing or from the date he completes his prison term, if one is imposed. The law does contain a provision, however, that allows for a request to be made to the sentencing judge, U.S. District Judge David Ezra, to reduce the time that Rodrigues will be banned from holding office in the UPW to as little as three years.

When Rodrigues is removed, union bylaws call for the local executive board to appoint a temporary state director. The temporary director would serve until a new permanent director is chosen during an election at the union's next statewide convention, which is scheduled for next fall.

Prosecutors claimed during Rodrigues' three-week trial that he included a provision for "consultant fees" in contracts he negotiated with the companies chosen to provide medical and dental insurance to union members, and then steered more than $300,000 for consulting work to companies owned by his daughter, Robin Rodrigues Sabatini.

The prosecution claimed that Sabatini did no work or only sham work in exchange for the consulting contracts, which were never made known to other UPW officials. Sabatini also was found guilty of mail fraud and money laundering.

Reach David Waite at dwaite@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8030.