Union Guy's Lawsuit Against Boss Reads Like 'On the Waterfront'
by Purna Nemani, Courthouse News
HONOLULU (CN) - The manager of a Hawaii electrical workers union asked a subordinate to "hurt" and "kill" union members who criticized him for his "lavish spending" of union money on himself, a union organizer claims in state court.
Thomas D. Decano Jr. sued the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers, Local 1260 and its Business Manager/Financial Secretary Brian F. Ahakuelo in Oahu First Circuit Court.
"From the inception of plaintiff's employment, plaintiff observed that defendant Ahakuelo became extremely angry when union members disagreed with or questioned his decisions," the complaint states. "From the inception of plaintiff's employment union members were critical of defendant Ahakuelo for: a) hiring his wife at a salary of $70,272.00 as a secretary when she had limited work experience; b) paying himself $1,000.00 per month to drive his personal vehicle; c) selling defendant IBEW automobiles and keeping the money for himself; d) purchasing new office furniture and five new automobiles; and e) others."
The complaint adds: "As early as July to August 2011, union members on several islands expressed their concerns about defendant Ahakuelo on their Internet Facebook accounts, which defendant Ahakuelo learned about."
The complaint lists six such union members, one of them being Randall Tamashiro, who is not a party to the lawsuit.
The complaint states: "Defendant Ahakuelo had a very short fuse and would fly into rages and in July 2011 he summoned plaintiff into a meeting in his office and stated, 'Brah, this fuckin' Tamashiro gotta go!' Plaintiff asked, 'what do you mean he gotta go?' Defendant Ahakuelo stated, 'either broke his fuckn' ass and send him to the hospital or make him disappear!' Plaintiff asked, 'what do you mean make him disappear?' Defendant Ahakuelo replied, 'kill da fuckin Jap!' Defendant Ahakuelo next informed plaintiff that he believed that union member Randall Tamashiro lived in Hawaii Kai, and that plaintiff can get his address from Marilyn, defendant Ahakuelo's wife. Plaintiff was stunned, and also afraid of losing his job, so he walked out of defendant Ahakuelo's office. When plaintiff stepped out of defendant Ahakuelo's office, his wife Marilyn immediately handed plaintiff a piece of paper with union member Tamashiro's home address handwritten on it."
Marilyn Ahakuelo is not a party to the lawsuit.
The complaint continues: "Later that same day, plaintiff returned to defendant Ahakuelo's office and tried to talk some sense into him, explaining that he would never get away with something like that and that he would be the first suspect on the authorities list because he had a motive to hurt union member Tamashiro in retaliation for union member Tamashiro's Internet postings and OSHA complaint. Defendant Ahakuelo became angry at plaintiff and with a red face stated angrily, "fuck it, I want Tamashiro gone!" Plaintiff explained that as a former law enforcement officer, and the father of a law enforcement officer, he could not jeopardize his family's well being. Defendant Ahakuelo became even angrier and stated, 'I no give a fuck, just take care of this fucker, get it done!'
"Plaintiff had no intention of inflicting bodily injury on anyone or making anyone 'disappear' as instructed, but needed his job because he has a family to support, Plaintiff immediately went to defendant IBEW staff attorney Teresa Morrison and reported defendant Ahakuelo's demands that he 'hurt' or 'kill' union member Tamashiro. Defendant IBEW staff attorney Teresa Morrison, who gave up her job in the state of New Jersey to relocate to the state of Hawaii to accept a job with defendant IBEW replied, 'I am really disappointed in Brian.'"
(Teresa Morrison is not listed as a defendant in this case. The phrase "defendant IBEW staff attorney Teresa Morrison" in the complaint apparently means "staff attorney for defendant IBEW.")
The complaint continues with more alleged threats and insults from Ahakuelo, such as "all these fuckers needs to get beaten up and gotta go!"; that union members "needed to be taught a lesson"; that one member was a "loud mouth Haole"; and, "kill those fuckn' Japs, and if you won't do it yourself I'll get you the money to pay someone to do it!'"
Decano claims Ahakuelo gave him a list of "'enemies' that he wanted taken care of."
Decano claims that on Jan. 1 this year, Ahakuelo promoted him to assistant business manager and raised his salary from $117,000 to $132,000. Then on March 25, he says, Ahakuelo fired him.
Two days later, he says, staff attorney Morrison resigned.
The complaint continues: "On Monday, May 14, 2012 a Solicitation to Commit Murder case was opened by the Honolulu Police Department under report number HPD 12-175720 by Officer Sean Kaolelopono (badge #3704). The case is currently under investigation by the Honolulu Police Department, Criminal Investigation Division, Homicide Section, Senior Homicide Detective Theodore Coons.
"On or about May 23, 2012 Defendant Ahakuelo telephoned Island of Hawaii Executive Board Member Kris Hoke and Island of Maui Union Member Christopher Cunkleman and made false statements about plaintiff, including falsely accusing plaintiff of smuggling drugs from the Philippine Islands to Guam. Both Executive Board Member Kris Hoke and Island of Maui Union Member Christopher Cunkleman immediately reported the false allegations to plaintiff.
"On or about Friday, June 1, 2012 defendant IBEW's monthly Executive Board meeting was held. During this meeting defendant Ahakuelo threatened the Executive Board members present, 'if any of you collaborates with Tommy Decano or his lawyer, I will have charges filed against you!'"
Finally, Decano says, on July 6, at the union's monthly executive board meeting, "Executive Board Member Manuel L. Cabral made a motion to have an outside audit conducted of the union expenditures over the last year due to defendant Ahakuelo's lavish spending (new office furniture, 5 new union automobiles, unauthorized air fare purchases for out of state travel by defendant Ahakuelo to Canada, Guam, Washington, D.C., Kansas, Oregon, unauthorized air fare purchases for out of state travel for defendant Ahakuelo's wife, unauthorized air fare purchases for out of state travel for the entire union office staff, etc., while not agreeing to pay for a sing[l]e grievance arbitration in the past year).
"Defendant Ahakuelo became enraged and said that he would hire someone to conduct his own internal audit, and the Executive Board did not need to have another audit done. When Executive Board Member Manuel L. Cabral insisted that an independent audit be conducted of defendant Ahakuelo's spending, defendant Ahakuelo raised up and leaned forward across the table toward Executive Board Member Manuel L. Cabral and threatened. 'I'll take care of you!' Defendant Ahakuelo next threw some documents across the table at Executive Board Member Manuel L. Cabral. The entire Executive Board witnessed this." (Parentheses in complaint.)
Decano seeks punitive damages for wrongful firing, defamation, whistleblower violations and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He is represented by Venetia Carpenter-Asui.
LINK: Full Text of Lawsuit
IBEW: Murder in Kona: A flurry of phone calls, then Union Leader Walks Free
CB: Lawsuit: Hawaii IBEW Chief Wanted Hitman To Take Out His Enemies
…It's not the first time Decano has sued an employer for wrongful termination. According to news reports, Decano lodged a wrongful termination complaint against a Snohomish County, Wash., fire district where he was a deputy chief.
Decano was also one of three Honolulu police officers who was arrested in 1975 for robbing a gambling operation on Kauai. He was also indicted in 1997 by the U.S. government for being in possession of more than $43,000 that had been stolen from the mail. …
Blake Okimoto, an attorney representing … IBEW, gave Civil Beat copies of letters Decano's attorney sent before filing the lawsuit. In a May 11 demand letter Carpeter-Asui said Decano would drop the case if he were paid four years worth of wages in addition to his back pay from the date he was fired. He also asked for $523.56 for attorneys fees.
On May 24, Okimoto countered, saying he wanted an immediate retraction of the “false allegations.” Okimoto also noted the curious timing of the May 11 demand letter and May 14 initiation of an HPD investigation.
VIEW: Carpenter Asui May 11 letter
VIEW: Okimoto May 24 letter