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.
On February 17, in the U.S. District Court for Delaware, Julie Messick, the former treasurer of Local 2001, United Bhd. of Carpenters, entered a guilty plea by plea agreement to one count of a five-count indictment. She pled guilty to embezzling union funds. Messick had previously made restitution in the amount of $9,164. She further stipulated in the plea agreement that she will make additional restitution in the amount of $2,629.85. On December 7, 2004, Messick was charged following an investigation by the Philadelphia District Office of the U.S. Office of Labor-Mgmt. Standards. [OLMS, 3/4/05]
Frmr. Bus. Mgr. Resentenced after Failing to Abide by 1st Sentence
On July 8, in the U.S. Dist. Ct. for the West. Dist. of Wash., Linda Stewart, frmr. secy.-treasurer of Graphic Communications Local 182-C (now known as Local 767-M), was sentenced to 5 yrs. supervised probation with 6 mos. to be spent in home detention with electronic monitoring. Stewart was also ordered to pay $65,005 in restitution. Stewart pled guilty on Feb. 6, 2004, to a 1 count information charging her with embezzlement. The conviction follows an investigation by the Seattle Dist. Ofc. of the U.S. Ofc. of Labor Mgmt. Standards and the Dept. of Labor's Ofc.
U.S. Dist. Judge Anna Brown (Ore., Clinton) delivered a mixed bag of verdicts on June 16.She found Dean Kirkland guilty of paying illegal gratuities to influence the investment decisions of union pension fund trustees.But citing the vagueness of fed. law, she found the 2 trustees in question, Dean's father, Gary, and Robert Legino, not guilty of accepting Dean's illegal gifts, which came in the form of lavish gifts and worldwide hunting trips.
Federal prosecutors and lawyers for now-defunct Capital Consultants salesman Dean Kirkland began dueling in federal court on April 21.Leading the case against Kirkland, Ore. Asst. U.S. Attny Neil Evans presented evidence that in 1999, union pension trustees were uncomfortable with their funds being moved into the investment firm that eventually collapsed in 2000.Evans also presented testimony that Kirkland continued to arrange hunting trips with union trustees who supported Capital even after he was advised that such trips likely violated anti-kickback provisions of fed. pension law.After U.S. Dist.
On April 9, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Timothy Aldridge, former president of Florence Steelworkers Local 1, pled guilty to one count of embezzling $112,525 in union funds. Aldridge had been indicted on April 9, 2003, following an investigation by the Cincinnati District Office of the U.S. Ofc. of Labor Mgmt. Standards. [OLMS, 5/6/04]
On March 10, in the U.S. Dist. Ct. for the Sou. Dist. of Texas, John Rookard, a special asst. and project coordinator to Byron Boyd, president of the United Transportation Union, pled guilty to one count of labor racketeering conspiracy. Rookard and Boyd admitted to soliciting and collecting thousands of dollars in cash from attorneys nationwide. The scheme involved attorneys seeking designation by UTU to receive lucrative business associated with the personal injury claims of rail workers. Rookard will forfeit $45,000 to the Federal government from the proceeds of the racketeering activity. The guilty plea follows a joint investigation by the New Orleans Dist. Ofc. of the U.S. Ofc. of Labor Mgmt. Standards, the Dept. of Labor's Ofc. of the Inspector General and the FBI.
Thomas J. Martin pled guilty on Nov. 25 to misusing union funds just four days after City Councilman Joseph Biernat was convicted of accepting $2,700 in free plumbing work from Martin's union, Local 15 of the United Assn. of Plumbers & Pipefitters. As he pled guilty, Martin revealed that he had also used $3,175 in union funds to pay for plumbing at a second elected official's home in 1998. He did not reveal the identity of the official in the U.S. Dist. Ct. for Minn., but an attny. for ex-county commissioner Mark Andrew confirmed that FBI agents had questioned the frmr. state head of the Dem. Farmer-Labor party about plumbing work done at his home in May 1998.
In his plea, Martin admitted stealing from the union's Industry Advance Fund to pay for Biernat's plumbing. In exchange for his guilty plea to the two counts of misusing union funds, fed. prosecutors have apparently agreed to drop charges that Martin stole about $37,000 from the union of which he once served as Bus. Mgr. U.S. Dist. Judge Ann Montgomery (U.S.D.C. MN, Clinton) ordered a pre-sentence investigation but set no sentencing date. [Minneapolis Star Tribune 11/26/02, 11/27]
Michael Fenger resigned from his position as director of the Ill. Dept. of Labor on Oct. 20.He had only been director since April, when Democrats were forced to ram his nomination by Gov. Rod Blagojevich through the state senate because of his "criminal background."
The U.S. Dept. of Labor sued the trustees of 7 union sponsored pension and health plans in Ohio and Minnesota on Aug. 29 for imprudent investments with Capital Consultants LLC. As a result of the investments, the plans suffered substantial losses that jeopardized the benefits of over 19,000 workers.
"The trustees' actions are abominable. Hardworking men and women trusted these trustees to protect and preserve their union-sponsored pension and health benefits. The trustees abused that trust and thousands of workers saw their retirement security put in jeopardy. The Administration is suing on behalf of these workers to recover as much as possible for the plans and to establish new procedures and controls to ensure that workers' pension and health plans will not be raided again," says Secy. of Labor Elaine L. Chao.