As a New York City power broker, Brian McLaughlin had few equals.He was both a union leader and a politician who played at the highest levels, adept at courting allies to win favors.And he knew how to take care of his people, including members of his original union, Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.But in the roughly eight months since the FBI raided his two offices, fears that he was bent have proven true – at least say federal prosecutors in a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act indictment.As they say in baseball, “Say it ain’t so.”
On October 10, David Taylor, former financial secretary for Carpenters Local 1402, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to one count of making false statements on the union’s reporting form.The statements were part of a scheme to cover up his embezzlement of $72,422 in union funds.The guilty plea follows an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.(OLMS, 10/31/06).
Ex-Boss of Connecticut Union Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement
On September 22, Rachetta Johnson and Charlene Monroe, co-owners of a contracting firm, Electrical Innovations, each were sentenced in Hamilton County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas, to five years probation and 500 hours of community service for their roles in defrauding a market recovery fund of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 212.The fund assists union contractors in bidding for jobs against non-union contractors by enabling contractors to collect wage difference. Johnson and Monroe conducted an invoice overpayment scam.During July 2002-December 2003, they billed the local for hours that members hadn’t worked.Earlier in the month, the pair pleaded guilty to theft by deception.At their sentencing, the court also ordered them to pay $26,448 in restitution.Another defendant, Michael Griffie, has been charged with theft of at least $100,000 in property or services.
On August 29, Linda Holden, former financial secretary-treasurer for Local 639 of the United Steelworkers, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to one count of embezzlement of union funds in the amount of $74,090.The guilty plea follows an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.USWA Local 639 previously had been affiliated with the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers (PACE), where it was known as Local 6-639. The change in affiliation is due to a merger, approved in April 2005, of the Steelworkers and PACE.The new umbrella organization is known as the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union.(OLMS, 9/25/06).
Former Local Business Agent in Southern Minnesota Charged
Kathryn L. Stark had an 11-year run stealing funds from Local 31 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. But the former office manager of the Duluth, Minn.-based local ran out of luck sometime after that.A federal grand jury in Minneapolis on September 11 indicted Stark, 49, a resident of Superior, Wisconsin, on charges that during 1993-2004 she stole more than $50,000 from the union.Two other persons also were indicted in the case, the result of an investigation by the Labor Department.Local 31 represents utility workers in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.(Duluth News-Tribune, 9/12/06).
Cleveland Ex-Local Secretary Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement
On April 14, Deann Schnepple, ex-bookkeeper for LIUNA District Council of Oregon, Southern Idaho and Wyoming, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to an information count charging her with embezzling $44,758 in district funds.Sentencing has been set for June.(OLMS, 5/16/06).
GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES (AFGE)
Pittsburgh Local Ex-President, Secretary Charged with Theft
On March 31, Donald Hutchinson, former financial secretary for Local 763-C of the Chemical Workers, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to one year of supervision and three years probation for embezzling union funds.He was ordered to pay $103,248 in restitution to the local.The sentencing follows an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.(OLMS, 4/29/06).
Kansas Financial Officer Sentenced, Another Pleads Guilty
Leslie Patricia Bell found out the price of stealing from a union treasury:18 months in federal prison, three years probation, and $156,423 in restitution.Bell, 39, had pleaded guilty last May to charges she embezzled funds from Local 1184 of the Laborers International Union of North America, which represents construction, groundskeeping and maintenance workers in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.Bell had been responsible for paying union bills and depositing membership dues at the union’s local office in Riverside.Her thefts began in May 2001 and lasted until her firing in July 2003.Most of Bell’s haul took the form of membership dues paid in cash.She also admitted forging the name of her then-husband, the union president, on two checks totaling $22,028.She used the money to pay off credit card debt and federal taxes, according to her plea bargain.
Seeking to uphold union democracy, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and Public Citizen filed suit on April 14 backing the free speech rights of a union member running for office.The suit was filed on behalf of Joseph Hughes to secure his right to speak with fellow members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
Los Angeles union chief Miguel Contreras and other union officials have tapped Hollywood studios, energy companies and other large corporations for hefty donations to finance its activities over the last eight years. In doing so, they have apparently found a loophole in the Landrum-Griffin Act, reports the Los Angles Times.
Created in 1997 to conduct voter registration, educate voters and campaign for ballot measures, the Voter Improvement Program (VIP) had the advantage of being able to receive unlimited donations. Unions have not been able to directly receive corporate donations for almost 60 years, as a result of congressional reaction to corruption scandals.