One Dead, Documents Stolen & Destroyed in Kentucky Probe

An audit of the Kentucky AFL-CIO sparked by member union complaints of corruption has turned the Ky. AFL-CIO upside down: so much so that it had to cancel its state convention last week. Notice of the national AFL-CIO’s audit arrived in Frankfort on Sep. 15. That day, Donna Bayless, the Ky. AFL-CIO’s bookkeeper at the center of the corruption allegations, was reported missing. She was found dead Sep. 19, an apparent suicide. She was found in a secluded wooded area owned by her family. Police said Bayless died of a single gunshot wound in the side of her head and a pistol was found near her body.

Police are investigating an Aug. break-in at the Ky. AFL-CIO HQ in which records were stolen and a Sep. 4 fire. The fire did minimal damage but destroyed union records and is considered an arson. Bayless disappeared the same day police went to her home to reinterview her about the burglary and arson.

Ron Cyrus, the Ky. AFL-CIO’s secretary-treasurer said the audit concerns missing money and improper checks. Cyrus, president Robert T. Curtis and vice-president Bobby Barnett have been suspended with pay — as were Bayless andher husband, Morgan Bayless, the Ky. AFL-CIO’s political director. The federation reportedly lost $299,000 in 1993-97 and were no audits were done, according to letters between member unions, an accounting firm and Cyrus.

The National AFL-CIO claimed the audit, financial irregularities and suspicious events are not linked to the recent grand jury indictments (see related brief below) and investigation of whether the AFL-CIO and the Teamsters colluded with Ky. Gov. Paul Patton’s 1995 campaign to circumvent election laws.  [Courier-Journal 9/20, 22 & 29/98]