Stant’s ‘side job,’ gambling match county paycheck
Good luck in Las Vegas and a Midas touch with a direct marketing “side business” combined last year for Stewart Stant to match his annual salary as Department of Environmental Management director, financial disclosure documents show.
Serving as director since December 2015, Stant earns $139,232 annually. His department manages wastewater and solid waste disposal, has more than 200 employees and a budget of $131.2 million this fiscal year.
His recent financial disclosure reports that he had gambling winnings of $25,000 to $49,999 from Harrah’s in Las Vegas.
When asked for more details about that last week, Stant said via email that “in 2017, I had gambling winnings of approximately $33,000 from a resort in Las Vegas.”
He said he has two separate tax forms (W-2G “Certain Gambling Winning) — one for $10,887 in June and another one for $22,500 in September.
“Like a lot of people from Hawaii, I enjoy my vacations to Las Vegas, and report any winnings as required by law,” he said.
Stant’s previous financial disclosure, filed in April 2017, reported his gambling winnings as being from $25,000 to $49,999. And, a third report, filed in December 2015, showed his gambling winnings as being from $50,000 to $99,999.
Stant, a Pukalani resident, also is a regional vice president of ACN, an international, multilevel marketing direct seller of telecommunications, energy and other services.
This year, Stant filed his annual financial disclosure Feb. 26 with the Maui County Board of Ethics. It shows he took in $100,000 to $199,999 in his “direct sales” business, S and S Unlimited LLC, located at 360 Hoohana St., Unit A106, in Kahului.
According to Stant, S and S Unlimited is a “doing business as” entity related to income he earns with ACN, which was founded in 1993 as American Communications Network.
Stant maintains there’s no conflict of interest with him holding positions concurrently as a county department head and as ACN regional vice president, a promotion he received last summer.
Stant said he manages both jobs by serving as the Environmental Management Department head 40 to 50 hours a week Monday through Friday, and working with ACN after work on Tuesdays and on his day off, Saturday. He said he generally has ACN presentations at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Hoohana Street office and beginning at 9 a.m. Saturdays with a 10 a.m. presentation followed by business partner training until 3 p.m.
His work with ACN has been “all on my own time,” he said.
ACN is a multilevel marketing company that generates revenue through a nonsalaried workforce of independent business owners who sell ACN products, such as cellphone, internet or TV services, and earn money derived from a pyramid-shaped commission system.
Stant said ACN is not an illegal pyramid scheme because customers get a tangible product or service, whereas an illegal scheme operates with investments of cash only.
“There’s no either product or service that’s being exchanged” in an illegal pyramid scheme, he said.
Stant has acknowledged that there were, in July last year, another five ACN business partners in the Department of Environmental Management, including Deputy Director Michael Miyamoto. (In April last year, Miyamoto disclosed earning less than $1,000 from his direct sales company.)
But Stant said the others in his department, including Miyamoto, were involved in the direct marketing company either before he was, or they were involved independently of him. He said he hasn’t recruited fellow workers, on county time, to be customers or independent business owners with the company.
In an email Friday to The Maui News, Stant said he’s worked for the county since 1990 (beginning as an electrician helper in the Wastewater Division), and he’s had other part-time jobs, working for Molina and Franco Electric and with the Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui.
“I joined ACN in 2009,” Stant said. “The company is based on ‘network marketing’ and has a AAA rating from the Better Business Bureau. I leased an office in Kahului, and for the first few years barely made any income from this business; however, over the years, I’ve been blessed to have created a solid network and have been able to offer income producing opportunities to many people. I am an independent sales contractor, as far as income I earn through my business activities with ACN products and services.”
Stant said he’s proud that not all of his income comes solely from the county.
“And it has been this way for most of my adult life,” he said. “I am a single dad of two wonderful girls. My eldest daughter is making a great living for herself in ACN, and my younger daughter is a freshman boarding at Kamehameha School on Oahu.”
An Eagle scout and U.S. Air Force veteran, Stant said he’s always been a “self-starter . . . working extra jobs to provide well for my family.”
“I’ve seen this as a measure of success and pride,” he said when asked if his outside income sets him apart from other county department heads. “If this makes me unique among other department directors, then the answer would be yes.”
The issue of Stant’s outside employment and his other income first arose in July 2017. At that time, in an interview conducted in his Wailuku office, Stant told The Maui News that he initially had no interest in direct sales with ACN, suspecting it was an illegal pyramid scheme. Also, his mother — a retired Makawao Elementary School teacher who raised three sons by herself — had done direct marketing to support the family, he said.
“I watched her do everything — Amway, Tupperware, Avon, Herbal,” he said then. “All this kind of stuff . . . things were packed in the living room. . . . That wasn’t for me.”
Later, after realizing he might end up retiring from the county with monthly income of only $1,879 per month, Stant said he took another look at ACN, especially as he faced paying bills and raising two daughters on a single income.
In 2009, ACN was a telecommunications company in a dozen countries, he said. It had three products: a “stupid videophone that nobody wanted,” a second long-distance phone line and DirecTV, he said.
Stant said he already was a DirecTV customer for eight years, a fan of its NFL package.
“So, since I came into the company, I started getting a percentage for something I was paying for anyway,” he said.
Then, he said he realized that “if I could help enough family and friends get DirecTV, which they’re going to get anyway, I give them the NFL package for free,” he said. “Every month they pay their bill, I get 10 percent.”
“I calculated it,” he said. “I said, ‘Well, if I get X amount of customers, then when I retire and get $1,800 a month, plus the added $500 to maybe $1,000 residual (income), then I can retire.’ “
Company clients can be either a customer who receives a discount of 30 to 50 percent on cellphone, internet or TV services, or a business partner who pays an amount for the business, then earns money for bringing in new customers, Stant said.
In multilevel marketing, existing business agents are encouraged to recruit new ones by paying the existing agents a percentage of their recruit’s sales. The recruits are known as an agent’s “downline.”
From sales by downline business partners, upline partners get a percentage of what they make, anywhere from a quarter to 8 percent, Stant said. But the business partner with the customer gets the full 10 percent, he said. And that only happens if the business partner acquires customers.
“So you have to acquire customers,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said he’s proud of what’s he’s accomplished at the department, dropping workers’ comp cases by 32 percent and alleviating employee grievances and arbitrations as of July.
Employee morale was high, he said.
Stant said he’s successfully resisted the temptation to recruit fellow employees and subordinates as ACN customers or business partners, knowing that that would be an ethical violation.
“I’ve been with the county too long, and I know better,” he said.
As an aside, President Donald Trump was associated with ACN before he launched his presidential bid in 2015.
According to a March 2016 article in the National Review, Trump was “ACN’s most famous unofficial spokesman.”
Trump appeared in ACN promotional videos, pitching the company’s “revolutionary products.” And, one episode of his NBC television program, “Celebrity Apprentice,” featured the company’s videophone, the article says.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.