Public Nurses May Go to Arbitration to Up Contract Offering from State; Pflueger Tax Fraud Case Goes to Trial in November; Hawaii Ranks Near Top for Retirement Destinations

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Public Nurses May Go to Arbitration to Up Contract Offering from State

Six of seven Hawaii Government Employees Association bargaining units ratified a new two-year contract for July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2013.


However Unit 9 – which represents all HGEA registered professional nurses – still has not settled. Five HGEA members – including Liz Asahara, Hilo Medical Center; Sue Kaulukukui, Department of Health, Windward Health Center; Susie Uwekoolani, Maui Memorial Medical Center; Cash Lopez, Kauai District Health Office; Janet Lee, Department of Public Safety, Waiawa Correctional Facility – sent out this letter today to that unit, updating them on negotiations for 2012-2013.

“We, your Bargaining Unit 9 negotiating team, want to provide you with an update on the status of negotiations for your 2011-2013 contract. As you know, upon rejection of the settlement agreement, we returned to negotiations.

“Nurses in bargaining unit 9 work in several jurisdictions. Besides the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, which employs 1,091 (60% of bargaining unit 9) nurses, the State of Hawaii employs 432 nurses, and Judiciary and County of Hawaii, 3 and 1 nurse(s) respectively.

“While the majority of nurses are employed in HHSC, it is the State administration that retains control of negotiations according to collective bargaining law. The State has not changed the terms of the settlement offer that were rejected by Unit 9 members during the ratification process.

“HGEA has reached out to the State to determine their willingness to address issues facing nurses in institutional settings. The State has not been responsive, continuing to cite their inability to address our concerns due to budget constraints. To date, there is no progress with the State jurisdiction.

“HGEA has also had informal discussions with the HHSC regarding possible resolution to the various concerns expressed by acute care hospital nurses. Issues included pay inequity with private sector acute nurses; recruitment difficulties in various facilities; and working condition issues caused by short staffing. HHSC continues to express interest in addressing certain issues raised during the contract ratification meetings.

“If agreement is not reached in the current round of negotiations, the team will make a decision on whether to proceed to arbitration. The timetable for arbitration is contained in a March 23, 2011 Memorandum of Agreement, which allows for either the Union or the Employer to request the Hawaii Labor Relations Board (HLRB) implement impasse procedures. Within 20 days of the date of such request, an arbitration panel will be selected. A hearing will be held within 30 days after appointment of the panel and within 30 days after the conclusion of the hearing, a decision shall be reached. With this timetable, a decision could be reached 3 months following notification to the Board.

“There have been questions raised about the “favored nation” clause, which was part of the settlement accepted by all HGEA bargaining units except Unit 9. The favored nation status applies in relation to other unions currently negotiating with the employer. If a more favorable settlement is reached through negotiations by a non-HGEA bargaining unit, then HGEA members of bargaining units 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 13 will receive the same terms.

“Upon further developments, we will provide an update via e-mail, the HGEA website and/or hard copies distributed to worksites. We are also willing to meet with Unit 9 members to discuss the status of negotiations. Please contact your union agent to schedule such meetings. Thank you for your support and for the care you give to Hawaii’s people every day on the job.”

Pflueger Tax Fraud Trial Set

The Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the manslaughter case of retired auto dealer James Pflueger last week. James Pflueger, who is in his 80s, was charged with 7 counts of manslaughter after his dam breached March 14, 2006, killing 7 people and an unborn child.

The state is accusing James Pflueger of covering the spillway, the dam’s only safety feature, when he was preparing the land around his Kauai reservoir for a home site, and causing the breach.  The state maintains he was warned on several occasions by various people to uncover the spillway but he refused. James Pflueger denies the charges and blames the breach on the former owner, the operator, the state and the county.

After being charged in November 2008, James Pflueger successfully delayed his manslaughter trial several times with appeals. He did the same with the civil suits against him, although those were settled.

But even in the unlikely event that he gets the manslaughter convictions thrown out, James Pflueger still faces a host of legal troubles in federal court on a different matter.

Pflueger, his son Charles Alan Pflueger, his accountant, Dennis Lawrence Duban and his employees, Julie Ann Kam and Randall Ken Kurata, were indicted on September 5, 2010, on charges of “conspiracy to defraud the United States for the purpose of obstructing the Internal Revenue Service in its collection of taxes.”

The U.S. attorney added charges for James Pflueger and his accountant Dennis Duban in connection with James Pflueger’s sale of a property in California. The U.S. Attorney said an estimated $14 million in proceeds “were sent to a bank account located in Switzerland” and that Pflueger failed to disclose the existence of the foreign bank account to the IRS.

Duban, a CPA, is also charged with “aiding in the filing of false federal tax returns on behalf of Charles Alan Pflueger (two counts) and James Pflueger (one count).”

The trial has been set for November 8, 2011 in the federal tax fraud case.

Both James Pflueger and his son Alan Pflueger are represented by defense attorney William McCorriston, even though the government did try unsuccessfully try to to disqualify Mccorriston from representing Alan Pflueger.

Representing the government in the case are Tim Stockwell and Kevin Sweeney from the Tax Division at the Department of Justice, and Les Osborne from the Hawaii U.S. Attorney’s office.

Hawaii Ranks Near Top for Retirement Destinations has ranked Hawaii the second best place to retire. Only state to top Hawaii was New Hampshire. Ranking after Hawaii are South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Virginia, Utah, Connecticut, Vermont and Idaho.

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The authors looked at economics, climate and crime rate. They also considered life expectancy, which in Hawaii is 80 years old, older than any other state.