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.
Thomas DiSilva received a light sentence for his cooperation in the extortion case against frmr. Intl. Bhd. Of Teamsters Local 25 boss George Cashman, federal authorities announced on July 31.The U.S. Attny. for Mass. called DiSilva's cooperation "the most significant, if not the single, factor" in forcing Cashman and ex-Local 25 v.p. William Carnes to admit to extortion and embezzlement on April 28.
Court-appointed receiver Thomas Lennon was expected last week to send some $72 million to union pension funds and other clients of the failed Capital Consultants investment firm.Eventually, some $240 million in asset sales and legal settlements is expected to be returned to the investors, about 70 percent of the losses incurred with the Oregon-based firm's collapse in 2000.The major union trusts involved in the recovery action include the Ore. Laborers-Employers Pension Plan, the 8th Dist. of the Intl. Bhd. of Elec. Workers which covers Colo., Idaho, and Utah, the United Assn. Local 290 Plumber, Steamfitter & Shipfitter Industrial Pension Plan in Portland, Ore., and the Office & Professional Employees Intl. Union Local 11, also in Portland.
A year after being placed under trusteeship by the Intl. Bhd. of Teamsters (IBT), 11,000 Northwest Airlines flight attendants voted, 55%-45%, to replace the Teamsters with an independent union, the Professional Flight Attendants Assn. (PFAA). The vote was conducted by telephone over a period of weeks, but the results were announced on June 19.
One year ago, IBT president James Hoffa replaced the leadership of Local 2000, based in Minnesota, with a trustee when he judged that the leaders were not resisting the PFAA's organizing efforts enough. This is the second time in five years that Northwest workers have opted for an independent union. In 1998, the mechanics, cleaners and custodians rejected the Intl. Assn. of Machinists in favor of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Assn. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 6/20/03]
More Arrests in Post-9/11 Looting of Credit Union ATM
Allowing no debate, democrats rammed the nomination of Michael Fenger as Labor Secy. through the Illinois Senate on April 10. But Sen. Peter Roskam (R) managed to mention Fenger's "criminal background" three times during procedural questions.
The frmr. Business Mgr. of Intl. Bhd. of Electrical Wrkrs. Local 364 pled guilty to property damage and reckless conduct after police officers saw him puncture all four tires of a non union worker's car as he tried to leave a Wal-Mart construction site but was surrounded by union protesters in 1997. When Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed Fenger labor secy. earlier this year, Fenger claimed to have only pled "no contest." But the prosecuting attny. pointed out that no such plea exists in IL law.
"Now I represent the workers of the state of Illinois -- all of them, union or not -- that's my new job," Fenger said after his committee hearing the week before the senate vote. [Rockford Register Star, 4/11/03]