HSTA Officers-Elect Announce Results of Recent Election, Board Misconduct, and Intent to Seek Judicial Relief
News Release from Corey Rosenlee, Justin Hughey, and Dr Amy Perruso, May 21, 2015
In a recent letter to the public and in recent media interviews, supporters of a slate of candidates that lost the recent HSTA election and the current President of the HSTA attempted to justify why the HSTA, for the first time ever, voted to reject the results of the election and hold a new election.
On Thursday, May 21, 2105, the candidates who won the election – President-elect Corey Rosenlee, Vice President-elect Justin Hughey, and Secretary/Treasurer-elect Dr. Amy Perruso – will be holding a press conference and issuing the following statement challenging the statements being made by current/former HSTA leadership:
Between April 13 and 24th the HSTA conducted an election by email and mailed ballots to elect its officers and National Education Association delegates. The results of the election were transmitted to the Elections Committee on or about May 2nd, at which time the results for all races, except Vice President, were certified.
The Elections Committee correctly determined that a runoff was required to determine which of the Vice President candidates would win because none of the 3 candidates for the position received the required more than 50% of votes. That runoff election was conducted via ballots mailed to all members and was completed on May 15, 2015. It is believed that on or about May 16th, the Elections Committee certified the results for the Vice President election.
Per the results certified by the Elections Committee (and as required by the Bylaws of the HSTA), Corey Rosenlee was declared President-elect, Justin Hughey was declared Vice President-elect, and Amy Perruso was declared Secretary/Treasurer-elect. Each of these races was decided by more than 150 votes.
Fifteen NEA delegate positions were also been certified by the Elections Committee. The number of votes separating the lowest winning candidate and the highest losing candidate for NEA delegate was 37. Consequently, the closest NEA delegate race was decided by 37 votes. Only the race for NEA Director was decided by fewer votes: 12.
While the percentage of ballots casts for the elections was low (just over 26% of eligible members voted), the total number of ballots cast was greater than the most recent election for statewide officers held in 2012. Only 16 ballots were voided.
Following certification of the votes by the Elections Committee, the HSTA Board met this past Saturday (May 16, 2015), for the ostensible purpose of “approv[ing] the certification of the 2015 HSTA Elections and NEA Elections.” Per its Bylaws, the election results, which by then had been certified by the Elections Committee were required to be disseminated. However, the HSTA continues to refuse to release these results.
Instead, members of the Board who supported the losing slate of candidates – “Team 2015” spearheaded by current HSTA Vice President Joan Lewis – made vague and unsupported allegations of impropriety at the meeting. The only verified claim being that approximately a dozen teachers had called the HSTA office claiming that they did not get a ballot – most likely due to their not having provided the HSTA with their current mailing or email address. In each instance, it was acknowledged that HSTA staff had promptly rectified the situation by providing a ballot and the member was able to cast a vote.
No evidence of actual wrongdoing and/or that voting was impacted was presented. Despite being requested to do so, HSTA has refused to release any information regarding any of these allegations. The manner in which these concerns about the election were raised and considered violated the HSTA’s Bylaws.
In a recent letter to the public, Mr. Okabe repeated these hearsay accusations. While Rosenlee has requested information on these allegations, Mr. Okabe and the HSTA’s Executive Director, Wilbur Holck, have refused to respond. Instead, Okabe has continued to make public statements based on innuendo rather than facts or evidence.
Based on these allegations, the Board improperly voted not to certify the election results. Despite being requested to do so, HSTA has refused to release the exact wording of the vote that was taken. However, any vote not to certify would have been improper, as the only authority the Board had was to reject the results, which had already been certified by the Elections Committee.
While the Board does have the authority to reject the results of an election, the standard for doing so is high. The Board must:
(1) make a “finding that the election was improperly conducted or that errors were sufficient to affect the results”;
(2) “two thirds vote of the total membership” of the Board must vote to reject; and
(3) members of the Board who are candidates may not vote.
None of these requirements were met:
(1) the Board took no vote and made no finding of impropriety or that the results of any election had been affected by any irregularity;
(2) in a clear conflict of interest, more than a dozen members of the Board whose election was at issue, improperly participated in the vote; and
(3) had these members properly abstained, as they were required to do, the two thirds vote that was needed to reject the election results would not have been achieved.
At the same meeting, the Board voted to hold a new election. Again, despite a written request from Rosenlee, who is currently a member of the Board, HSTA has refused to release the exact wording of the vote that was taken. Despite this, the HSTA announced this week that it intends to conduct a 3 hour walk in only re-vote on June 2nd.
While Rosenlee has requested information on the campaign rules for the June 2nd election and whether the rules were voted on by the Elections Committee or the HSTA Board of Directors, HSTA leadership has refused to respond. Voting locations for the new election have not been announced. The manner in which the new election is to be carried out has not been fully explained and appears to violate the Election Committee’s rules and the HSTA’s Governance Manual.
“The new election announced by Mr. Okabe lacks transparency and is patently unfair” said Rosenlee. “It is designed to impede and discourage teachers from voting by making them travel to polling locations that have not even been announced, immediately after the end of their work day, during rush hour, when many of them may need to pick up their own children or may be supervising school activities such as graduation ceremonies, or grading year-end assignments” said Rosenlee. “Instead of being emailed and mailed a ballot and having two weeks to vote, teachers will only be given three hours to vote! Moreover, some schools will already be out for summer. Others have graduation ceremonies on the scheduled voting day.”
Rosenlee, Hughley, and Perruso announced that – absent hearing from the HSTA leadership immediately – they anticipate bringing legal action early next week to:
(1) enjoin the HSTA from proceeding with the new election, and
(2) invalidate the votes that improperly took place on May 16th, thereby compelling the HSTA to accept the results of the election that was conducted.
Said Rosenlee “suing the HSTA is the last thing we wanted to do, but it is our only recourse. How else can we hope to obtain justice for those who supported us?”
President-elect Corey Rosenlee was born and raised in Hawaii. He is a national board certified social studies teacher at Campbell High School. He is a graduate of Kaiser High School and the University of Hawaii (B.A.; M.E.T.). He has been teaching for 18 years. His daughter attends Holomua Elementary School. He has advocated for air conditioning in classrooms and for better learning environments for students and teachers.
Vice President-elect Justin Hughey is a special education teacher at King Kamehameha III Elementary School in Maui. He has advocated for awareness of special education staffing problems and other issues affecting classroom safety for students and teachers.
Secretary/Treasurer-elect Dr. Amy Perruso is a nationally recognized social studies teacher at Mililani High School. Among other awards, she was a national finalist for History Teacher of the year and has also won Walmart’s Hawai’i Teacher of the Year. Her doctoral thesis is on the politics of “education reform,” and addresses the fight to reclaim public education. Her daughter is a student at Mililani Ike Elementary School.
Bylaws, Art. XI, Sec. 2.c. “The Elections Committee shall administer the counting of the ballots and certify the results of the election to the Board. The candidates receiving the majority of the votes cast for each of the offices named herein shall be declared elected.” (Emphasis added).
In the initial election, Hughey garnered more than two hundred more votes than the next candidate. Despite being requested by Hughey, and required by its Bylaws to do so, HSTA has refused to release the results of the runoff election for VP. See HSTA Governance Manual, 421.II.3.G. (“Elections results will be sent to the candidates and Chapter Presidents following the Board approval. Unofficial election results will be released to candidates only, upon request.”).
HSTA Agenda - New Business Item 103.
HSTA Governance Manual, 421.II.3.G.H. (“The certified election results shall be forwarded by the HSTA President to the Communications Specialist for dissemination.”) (emphasis added).
Bylaws, Art. XIV, Sec. 2.1.g.(2). Provides that if there is a complaint of impropriety regarding an election, it should be submitted to the Elections Committee, which submits it to the President, who refers it to the judicial panel for hearing and decision. None of this was done – no complaint was submitted, considered, or heard, and no findings were issued.
Bylaws, Art. XIV, Sec. 2.1.g.(10). The Elections Committee “shall certify the results of the various elections to the . . . Board . . .. The body to which the results are certified may, on a finding that the election was improperly conducted or that errors were sufficient to affect the results, reject such results, in whole or in part, by a two thirds vote of the total membership of the appropriate body, not counting the challenged seats [it is not clear what this means] and without the vote of any person whose election is challenged.” (emphasis added).
HSTA Governance Manual Sec. 421. II.A. (Election Rules for HSTA Officers. “Ballots will be mailed and made available electronically to the membership . . ..”)
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'We just elected a Governor, and now this?' -- Teachers Angry at Corrupt Union, Lawsuit to be Filed Tuesday
Maui News, May 23, 2015: Maui's Justin Hughey, candidate for Hawaii State Teachers Association vice president, claims that he and presidential candidate Corey Rosenlee of Campbell High School and secretary-treasurer candidate Amy Perusso of Mililani High won the election fairly, and that the board rejected the election last weekend without any substantiation....
"I feel very confident that we all won legitimately and the evidence as to why the votes were thrown out has not been presented to us," Hughey said Friday. "We've tried to meet and have a conversation with current HSTA leadership and their lawyers and we haven't been able to. If the situation isn't corrected by Tuesday, we are moving ahead in court."
If the trio goes to court, it plans to file a request for a temporary restraining order against the union to stop the new election and to honor the results of the first, the group's lawyer David Rosen said. He said the court generally provides a ruling within a day or two....
The board held a meeting May 16 to consider certifying the election but found it "seriously flawed" and voted 21-8 in favor of rejecting it.
Karolyn Mossman, head of the special education department at Kalama Intermediate School, said she does not believe the union is acting in the best interest of its members and is "having trouble accepting the members' decision to elect new leaders." The three elected teachers would be replacing current board members or candidates supported by the current union leadership. For example, current HSTA Vice President Joan Lewis opposed Rosenlee for president.
"I think that it's very hard for them to accept outsiders - or what they perceive as outsiders - with little experience to sweep the election," Mossman said. "I think they are looking for excuses to not accept it."
Mossman, who sat on the state level of the HSTA board for over 12 years, was the last Maui teacher to be an officer with the HSTA, serving three years as vice president and ending her term two years ago. She also served as secretary-treasurer and represented Hawaii on the National Education Association board of directors.
Mossman said she was disheartened to hear about the rejected election results after working to rebuild the reputation of the union that took hits during Furlough Fridays - where then-Gov. Linda Lingle closed schools on designated Fridays during a budget crisis - and former Gov. Neil Abercrombie's time in office in which the union engaged in a bruising battle over a new contract.
"We finally elected a new governor and we were moving ahead with restoring our reputation and then this happens," she said, noting that the HSTA was one of the first unions to support Ige for governor. "I just think that it makes the organization look bad and the teachers think, 'Oh my gosh, what the heck is going on?'
"And it's all very unnecessary. It matters more that we honor the democratic process more than who the leader is, but unfortunately I think the board feels otherwise, so they're looking for reasons to overturn the election."
Alan Isbell, a newly selected HSTA board member who takes office in July, said many teachers are "pretty well disgusted and angered" by union leadership.
"I know very few people who view what happened in any way but corrupt," said Isbell, a 4th-grade teacher at Wailuku Elementary School. "The whole thing was corrupt. I have a steady stream of teachers in my ear about how disgusted they are about the whole situation, and these are teachers that aren't necessarily people that always align themselves with dissonance."
read ... 3 say they won seats legitimately