Business Agent for Film Set Design Local Suspended

Ronnie Cunningham was a business agent for a union whose members build soundstage production sets.  Somehow he confused that with taking center stage at everyone else’s expense.  On Wednesday March 1, the executive board of Local 44 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees voted 16-0 to oust Cunningham for alleged embezzlement of union funds and other offenses dating as far back as 1996.  These charges include :  demanding cash payments from call board employees; requiring union employees to perform personal services for him; receiving unauthorized overtime pay; and blacklisting two local members.  The action is not a formal declaration of guilt, and his guilt or innocence will be determined at future date.  Cunningham already has declared his innocence.  The North Hollywood, Calif.-based Local 44 represents about 5,600 prop makers, decorators, model builders and other employees involved in television and film set design.Read More ➡

San Francisco Plumbers Local Uses Pension Funds for Strange Real Estate Deals

Local 38 of the United Association of Plumbers, Pipe Fitters and Journeymen has an unusual set of priorities. Through its pension funds, the union owns a fleabag single-room occupancy hotel in downtown San Francisco that’s straight out of an early-period Tom Waits song. The San Francisco union claims it doesn’t have yet the money to upgrade the structure. Yet fund managers somehow managed to discover $36 million lying around to pump into a non-ERISA “convalescent trust fund” that owns and operates the Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa on Clear Lake in Kelseyville (see photo), about an hour-and-a-half’s drive north of the city. A number of people are unhappy with this arrangement, starting with the U.S. Department of Labor.

 

In November 2004 the Labor Department filed a lawsuit against local business manager Lawrence J. Mazzola and various current and former Local 38 officials and pension plan trustees (including Lawrence Mazzola, Jr.) Read More ➡

New Group Formed to Combat Union Power and Corruption

Rick Berman is a person who puts his money where his mouth is.  The pugilistic Washington, D.C. lobbyist, trained as a labor lawyer, believes unions in this country for too long have been unaccountable to their members and the general public, and with baneful consequences.  He’s formed a new nonprofit group to do something about it. 

 

The organization is called the Center for Union Facts.  Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal readers got a taste of its presence on Monday, February 13, when they encountered a full-page ad featuring a picture of a “Closed” sign over a padlocked gate, with the caption, “The New Union Label…Brought to you by the union ‘leaders’ who helped bankrupt steel, auto, and airline companies.”  The center also went on a hunting expedition – in a manner of speaking.  Picketers placed a 15-foot dinosaur Read More ➡

Two Local Officials in New Jersey Arrested for Embezzlement

Gary Weightman and John McGovern got a Valentine’s Day present from the government.  But it wasn’t the gift of love.  The pair, respectively, had been president and secretary-treasurer of American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 190 in Clifton, N.J., while holding down full-time postal jobs.  On Tuesday, February 14 federal prosecutors in Newark unsealed an indictment against them, as they were being arrested.  Weightman and McGovern allegedly embezzled more than $400,000 from the union during 2000-2002, with the money going for everyday expenses.  Both men were released on $100,000 bond.

 

Weightman’s lawyer, Stephen F. Pellino, says his client is innocent.  “There may have been some sloppiness in the way books were kept…but he didn’t steal any money,” he remarked.  But Weightman, 53, and McGovern, 50, certainly have acted like they’ve got something to hide.  The two have been charged with obstructing Read More ➡

Former D.C. Teachers Union Official Claims Mental Illness

aft-logoThere’s nothing new about a criminal defendant playing the crazy card in order to avoid a conviction or a sentence.  Some, like the late Genovese crime family godfather, Vincent “the Chin” Gigante, go all out and pretend to be cracked in public.  That trick worked for a few decades.  Others, more conventionally, claim they were crazy at the time the alleged offenses took place.  Gwendolyn Hemphill fits into the second category.  Unfortunately for her, she’s not terribly convincing – at least according to federal prosecutors.

 

Hemphill, 64, for years served as office manager for the Washington Teachers Union, a local affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.  Last August she and ex-union treasurer James O. Baxter II each were convicted on nearly two dozen charges in relation to their role in a theft and money-laundering scheme that cost the union up to $5 million during 1995-2002.  Their fate virtually was Read More ➡

Ex-Official of Southern California Local Sentenced for Thefts

Like many embezzlers, William H. Good, Jr., former secretary-treasurer for Local Lodge 821 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, had a gambling problem.  Now he’s getting some help, courtesy of federal court.  Good, 57, a resident of Lucerne Valley, pleaded guilty in October to two felony counts of embezzlement totaling $3,500.  But that sum was a mere fraction of his total theft of $192,469 over a nearly six-year period ending in August 2004.  Good had written 229 fraudulent checks drawn on the Ontario, Calif.-based local’s bank account.  To cash most of them, he forged the signatures of other local executive board members.  In 1999, with his scam underway, he convinced the board to send union bank statements to his home address.   

 

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on January 23 sentenced Good to 18 months Read More ➡

Crony of Duff Family Sentenced for Chicago HERE Contract Fraud

The final door in the eternal federal case against Chicago’s once-mighty Duff family has closed.  On January 27, Terrence Dolan, former operations manager for a Chicago-based company, Windy City Maintenance, was sentenced in federal court to 21 months of imprisonment followed by three years supervised release, ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution to the City of Chicago, and fined another $1,100 for his part in falsely indicating the firm as female-owned in winning a lucrative city contract back.  Dolan was the last of six defendants to be sentenced in a joint probe of a Chicago Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) local by the FBI, the IRS, the Department of Labor and the City of Chicago.  He had pleaded guilty in October to 11 counts of mail fraud.

James Duff, his brothers and their mother, Patricia Duff, ran Chicago’s Liquor & Wine Sales Representatives union.  James Duff also owned Windy Read More ➡

Ex-Business Manager in Kansas Charged with Embezzlement

On January 24, Vince L. Matthews was charged in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas with one count of embezzling $93,298.28 from Sheet Metal Workers Local 29.  The information count follows an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.  (OLMS, 2/16/06).   

 

Indiana Secretary-Treasurer Pleads Guilty to Embezzling Funds

On January 24, William Van Sickle, former secretary-treasurer for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 725, pleaded guilty to embezzlement of union funds totaling $62,229.40.  The guilty plea follows an investigation by the Labor Department.  (OLMS, 2/16/06).

 

Former Treasurer for Buffalo Local Sentenced for Embezzlement

On January 31, Albert Moore, former secretary-treasurer for Local 1-6992 of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York to six months home confinement, three years probation and 400 hours of Read More ➡

Trial Lawyers’ Class-Action Suits Produce Union Bonanzas

William Lerach is not the kind of guy who brings out ambivalence in a person. There are two distinct views of the flamboyant, high-powered 59-year-old San Diego securities lawyer. The first is that he’s a champion of innocent investors everywhere, holding irresponsible and rapacious companies to account for acts of negligence or fraud in stock price declines. The second is that he’s a shameless fee-hunting predator whose class-action lawsuits, under the guise of “justice,” have undermined honest companies. Lerach knows he’s got a national reputation as an S.O.B. During the 90s, with his then-firm, Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman, he filed well-publicized shareholder suits against legitimate companies, especially in the software industry, to recover damages triggered by sharp, unexpected price drops. He won often, raking in huge awards for his clients and huge fees for himself and his partners. Less well-known perhaps is his effectiveness in redistributing wealth on behalf Read More ➡

Federal Oversight of Formerly Mob-Run Buffalo Local Ends

For decades Local 210 of the Laborers International Union of North America had been the hobby horse of the Buffalo criminal underworld. Nowhere in organized labor was murder so ingrained as a way of doing business. It was an exaggeration of an international union itself long mired in corruption and violence. A fourth of the more than 200 pages of the draft RICO suit completed by the Justice Department in November 1994 against LIUNA (never filed due to Clinton White House pressure) pertained to crimes committed by Local 210. The Justice Department allowed the local to institute its own internal cleanup program in 1996. Progress was insufficient, and early in 2000 a federal judge appointed a liaison officer, John J. “Jack” McDonnell, to run the operation. Six years later he’s stepping down, having given the union a clean bill of health.   

 

“When I came here on January 24, 2000, Read More ➡

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