Caleb A. Gray-Burriss built his union from the ground up. Now he’s run aground, and might be headed for an indictment. Federal authorities revealed that in April they had raided the home and office of Burriss, founder and head of the 800-member National Association of Special Police and Security Officers (NASPSO), based in Washington, D.C. According to an affidavit filed by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General, department investigators searched for documents related to the disappearance of $95,000 in pension and health plan dues, plus “numerous, ongoing withdrawals” from the accounts to cover travel and other personal expenses.
The probe comes nine months after the Department of Labor filed a civil complaint accusing Burriss and the union of having “dealt with assets of the pension plan in their own interest or for their own account.” DOL regulators sought to remove Burriss as a trustee of the health and pension plans after the department’s Employee Benefit Security Administration found substantial financial irregularities. No charges have been filed yet. Burriss, who founded NASPSO in the basement of his home more than a dozen years ago, may well face removal anyway. The union remains a one-man shop; court records show Burriss was the union’s only employee.
Burriss’s attorney, Howard R. Shmuckler, thinks the government doesn’t have a case. “Upon the conclusion of the government’s investigation, we are confident Mr. Burriss will be vindicated,” he said. But getting his client off the hook is easier said than done. In addition to explaining how nearly $100,000 in benefit dues came to be “missing,” the defense also will have to account for diversions of union funds toward high living. The Labor Department’s financial records reveal withdrawals by Burriss for dozens of hotel stays in and around Washington, D.C., hundreds of restaurant bills, and charges at nail salons and liquor stores. These don’t look like union-related expenses by even the loosest of accounting standards. (Washington Times, 5/7/07; 5/9/07).