Can Trump Drain the Swamp at the Bureau of Indian Affairs?

If ever a federal agency was ripe for termination, the Bureau of Indian Affairs should qualify for consideration. The bureau has a justly-earned reputation as a patronage machine for tribal leaders and their cronies. The Trump administration has been emphasizing its intent to reform the agency. Tribal sovereignty, the product of several 19th-century treaties, is a fact of life. But there are ways of “draining the swamp” that would not require abrogating any treaties.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), created in 1824 and housed under the Department of the Interior since 1849, has much to manage with its current $2.5 billion annual budget. There are 567 federally-recognized Indian and Alaska Native tribes representing about two million persons. Many live on reservations comprising 55.7 million acres. Each tribe elects its own sovereign government to oversee such activities as courts, schools, job training, health care, infrastructure and gambling casinos.

This … Read More ➡

Builder Sues NYC Unions for $100M+ Hudson Yards Ripoff

Union corruption long has contributed to cost overruns on urban real estate projects, especially in New York City where developers tend to think big. But area labor leaders now are getting some well-deserved comeuppance. On Monday, March 5, Related Companies, the general contractor of the Hudson Yards mega-development on Manhattan’s West Side, sued the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and its president, Gary LaBarbera, in State Supreme Court for actions that allegedly inflated costs by over $100 million. The defendants, reads the suit, were “condoning, if not actively participating in, various corrupt practices.” Allegations include tortious interference, time sheet fraud and wage fraud, the latter offense highlighted by a scam in which two union members received a wage of over $40 an hour for fetching coffee. Nice work if you can get it.

The Hudson Yards, a mixed-use complex under construction made possible through the … Read More ➡

Secretary of Boilermakers Local in SE Virginia Sentenced

On February 15, Tamika Bullock, former secretary-treasurer of International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 684, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to 14 months in prison for embezzling $24,600 from the Chesapeake-based union. Bullock, now 39, a resident of Portsmouth, had pleaded guilty last November after being indicted in June. Most of the stolen money had come from the union’s “sick and distressed” account. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.… Read More ➡

Former Director of LSC-Funded Alabama Program Sentenced

Kelli Hogue Mauro gave legal advice free of charge. Unfortunately, she wound up needing some legal advice of her own. Last September 20, Mauro, former executive director of the Birmingham (Ala.) Volunteer Lawyers Program, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee to five years of probation and five years of home confinement for embezzling more than $35,000 from the program, which is partly funded by Legal Services Corporation. She also will have to pay residual restitution in the amount of $10,228.32 and a fine of $10,000. Mauro had pleaded guilty in April after being charged two days earlier that month in an information count. The actions follow an investigation by LSC’s Office of Inspector General.

According to prosecutors, Mauro, now 48, a resident of Birmingham, during January 1, 2012-August 31, 2012 conducted about 100 separate transactions totaling $35,116 that benefited herself and her family. The Read More ➡

IBEW Secretary in Michigan Sentenced for $300K+ Embezzlement

For about three years, Stephanie DeBoer stole from her union. She may be lucky her sentence won’t last much longer than that. On February 20, DeBoer, former office manager and bookkeeper for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 876, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan to four years in prison for embezzling $307,563 from the Edmore (Montcalm County), Mich.-based union. She also will have to undergo probation following release and make full restitution. DeBoer had pleaded guilty last November after being indicted in May. The actions follow an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.

According to court records, DeBoer, a resident of Cedar Springs, Mich., from sometime in 2012 until September 2015 embezzled funds from the union by writing unauthorized checks to herself and others, making unauthorized payroll deposits, making unauthorized purchases and using union funds to pay off credit card … Read More ➡

Corporations Paying for Employee Protest: Does the Tail Wag the Dog?

There’s nothing unusual about a corporation offering employees paid leave for vacations, illness or personal emergencies. That’s a fact of the modern workplace. But lately employers have begun to provide a far less justifiable benefit: paid leave for social justice activism. Very often, employees themselves, backed by social media mobs, demand that management take stands on gun control, global warming, immigration and other major issues. And these shakedowns can result in the termination of less than compliant executives. It’s another example of why business should not be a vehicle for political advocacy.

The Left always has been resourceful in building cadres. And the workplace has become the new frontier. Not that many companies aren’t already on board with this. At Luxe, a San Francisco-based valet parking smart phone app, founder and CEO Curtis Lee, angered over President Trump’s January 2017 executive order temporarily barring entry into the U.S. … Read More ➡

Pittsburgh Boilermakers Business Manager Sentenced for Theft, Tax Evasion

Embezzlement can bring in lots of revenue, but the costs in the end may total a lot more. Just ask Ray Ventrone. On February 12, Ventrone, former business manager for International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 154, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to 41 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for embezzling $1.5 million in funds from the Pittsburgh union and for income tax fraud. He also was ordered to pay restitution in the sums of $2,391,183 to the union and $500,000 to Zurich Surety, plus $223,881 in back taxes to the IRS. Ventrone had pleaded guilty last September after being charged in April. The actions follow a probe by the FBI, the IRS and the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.… Read More ➡

LIUNA Ex-Chief of Staff Indicted for Embezzlement

As if Roderick Bennett didn’t have enough legal problems, now he’s got some more. On January 18, Bennett, former chief of staff at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), was indicted by a District of Columbia federal grand jury on three counts of embezzlement from the union totaling at least $170,000 and two counts of health care fraud against a union-sponsored health care plan. These charges follow an information count in November charging him with theft in the sum of $141,335. A Florida attorney, Aimee Occhetti, also was indicted with Bennett for health care fraud. The latest charges follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, Employee Benefits Security Administration and Office of Inspector General.

Roderick Bennett, if nothing else, was well-paid during his four-year tenure as LIUNA chief of staff. For each of 2014 and 2015, his last … Read More ➡

UGSOA Local Secretary in Ohio Pleads Guilty to Theft; Sentenced

On January 23, Elizabeth Merrill, former secretary-treasurer of United Government Security Officers of America (UGSOA) Local 251, pleaded guilty in Hamilton County, Ohio Court of Common Pleas to one count of attempted theft and one count of attempted forgery from the Cincinnati-based union. She then was sentenced to 180 days in jail (suspended) and one year of probation, and was given a $100 fine. Merrill had been indicted last October in connection with the disappearance of $1,051 in union funds. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.… Read More ➡

Government Employees President in Kansas Indicted for Embezzlement

On February 7, Robert Clearwater, former president of National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) Local 14-8, was indicted in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas on one count of embezzlement in the amount of $11,681 and six counts of making false statements in the financial records of the Topeka-based union to conceal the thefts. NAGE is an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. The indictment follows a probe by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.… Read More ➡

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