William S. Demboski Jr., an ex-secretary-treasurer of United Steelworkers of Am. Local 01-2-L in Akron, pled guilty Feb. 2 with embezzling over $316,000 in union funds. The union boss confessed to writing 302 unauthorized union checks from 1993-97. USWA officials couldn’t explain how the corrupt boss was able to embezzle the funds without detection for over four years. Demboski’s reign ran 12 years. He faces between 18 and 24 months in prison under the plea agreement and must make full restitution to the union. [Akron Beacon Journal 2/3/99]
UNITE Sued for Libel in North Carolina
A Greensboro, N.C. bedding manufacturer, filed a libel suit Jan. 28 against the Union of Needletrades, Indus. & Textile Employees. Crescent Sleep Products accuses UNITE of libeling and slandering the company in order to damage the company’s reputation, harm its relationship with its licensor, Serta, and drive away customers. The suit is a result of … Read More ➡
The union world is abuzz with the amazing news that a dissident lawsuit has ousted one of America’s highest paid union bosses. AFL-CIO boss John J. Sweeney’s successor, Gus Benova was paid well over $400,000 a year to run the Service Employee Int’l Union Local 32B-32J. On Feb. 1, Benova ended his 18 year reign that began when Sweeney was elected to head SEIU in 1981. Benova has been dogged by allegations of a lavish lifestyle, authoritarian rule and possible mob ties, but his resignation came as part of a civil suit settlement brought by dissidents Carlos Guzman and Dominick Bentivgna. [N.Y. Times, N.Y. Post 2/2/99]
Top SEIU boss Andrew L. Stern — who himself has corruption questions stemming from his role in the Teamsters money-laundering scandal — imposed an indefinite trusteeship over the local. On Feb. 8, SEIU opened Benova’s union-funded SoHo penthouse to the media. The palatially high-tech … Read More ➡
A prominent Toronto boss was beaten Jan. 29 by four or five men armed with metal bars in a daylight attack that left him with a broken arm and a gash in his head. The victim was John Stefanini, the executive director of the Residential Alliance of Building Trade Unions and ex-boss of the Laborers Int’l Union of No. Am. Local 183. A witness said moaning outside his window turned into cries for help and that Stefanini’s “head was cracked right open.” Police are looking into labor-related motives. “It’s vigilantism at its best and we would like to have it stopped,” said a police detective.
Stefanini, who lost consciousness after the beating, later refused to speculate about the attack. “I prefer not to make any comment. There’s a police investigation and I’ll leave it to them,” he said. While at LIUNA, Stefanini was also the subject of violence. FBI informant … Read More ➡
San Antonio union boss Harold Flammia was sentenced Feb. 5 to 55 months in prison and ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution for looting a taxpayer-funded police association legal fund. Asst. U.S. Atty. Chris Gober termed Flammia’s crimes as “classic influence peddling” and “a profound breach of trust.” In May, Flammia pled guilty to one count of fraud and one count of money laundering.
Flammia’s kickback scheme started in 1988, when he became president of the San Antonio Police Officers Ass’n. He negotiated a city contract that included a clause that earmarked union dues and taxpayers funds for a legal fund to aide police officers. The city paid millions of dollars into the fund, which was managed by the Combined Law Enforcement Ass’n of Tex. Flammia was CLEAT’s treasurer and later was a regional director and board member. The boss solicited kickbacks from a CLEAT attorney and in return, Flammia … Read More ➡
Michael J. Gochis was convicted Feb. 2 by federal jury on three misdemeanor counts connected to his intimidation and physical assault of Teamster Local 505 member David Bothum. During a 1995 contract settlement, Bothum spoke against a proposal. His comments drew the ire of Gochis, who threatened Bothum. After one such exchange Gochis allegedly attacked Bothum from behind and threw him to the concrete floor warehouse, fracturing Bothum’s ribs. Gochis was acquitted of battery in 1998, but federal prosecutors later charged him with violating a federal labor statute forbidding intimidation of union members who voice their views on union business. Asst. U.S. Atty. Mark Vogel said the federal charges were brought after a key witness allegedly perjured himself in the battery trial. Gochis faces 3 years in prison. [Chicago Tribune 2/4/99]
Corrupt New Jersey Local Oversight to End
Court-appointed monitor Edwin H. Stier said Feb. 5 that the notorious Teamsters … Read More ➡
Atty. Gen. Janet Reno controversially chose not to appoint an independent counsel Jan. 29 to probe possible illegal acts by ex-Clinton aide Harold M. Ickes on behalf of the Teamsters. Ickes, the Clinton Adminstration’s DNC liaison in 1996, is also a longtime union attorney whose clients have had severe corruption problems. The probe would have focused on charges of perjury and campaign finance abuses. Before the Senate’s 1997 Thompson Committee, Ickes vigorously denied that the Clinton Adminstration helped the Teamsters in a dispute with Diamond Walnut Growers. But the Committee later uncovered union memos stating Ickes had urged then-U.S. Trade Rep. Mickey Kantor to intervene, and Ickes’ aide testified that Ickes told her to make sure Kantor followed through. [A.P. 1/29/99]
Hoffa Still Not in Control
Ron Carey-loyalist, Tom Leedham, who failed in his bid to be Teamsters president last year, filed the latest review request Feb. 2 of president-elect … Read More ➡
AFSCME issued Feb. 8 the first public accounting of New York’s scandal-ridden Dist. Council 37. It confirmed dissidents’ belief that DC37 was involved in a members dues scam enabling its bosses to charge hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses. Between 1995-98, ten bosses spent $450,000 on DC37 credit cards, but only three officials submitted any documentation. In DC37’s 1998 budget, bosses deliberately underestimated the number of dues-paying members by 8,000 to 9,000, which resulted in income of $2 million.
The report also detailed a scheme in which some of DC37’s locals made expenditures that would be paid for by DC37, but DC37 would then hold back dues money as payment for the spending. It allowed locals to engage in spending that did not show up on the local books. One example was $600,000 that Local 372 ex-president Charles Hughes took for “fraudulent overtime he claimed to have worked … Read More ➡
William S. Demboski Jr., an ex-secretary-treasurer of United Steelworkers of Am. Local 01-2-L in Akron, was charged Jan. 22 with embezzling $316,000 in union funds. The U.S. Atty.’s office accused Demboski — from Uniontown, Ohio — with writing 302 unauthorized union checks from 1993-97, including 231 totaling $195,000 directly to himself. The remaining checks were to a bank, a country club and credit card companies to allegedly pay for his personal expenses. Demboski was charged in U.S. Dist. Court with one count of embezzlement and one count of making false entries in union records. He faces 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charges resulted from a U.S. Dep’t of Labor investigation. [Plain Dealer 1/23/99]… Read More ➡
Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Int’l Union president John W. Wilhelm was singled out for unethical behavior by American Indians at a Jan. 7 hearing of the Nat. Gaming Impact Study Commission (NGISC) in Seattle. Indians, led by S. Timothy Wapato of the Nat. Indian Gaming Ass’n, blasted Wilhelm for his unseemly conflict-of-interest: being a NGISC Commissioner and at the same time the top boss of a union that is sure to benefit from any new restrictions or regulations on Indian gaming that come out of the impending NGISC report to Congress.
Wapato demanded Wilhelm disqualify himself from the NGISC due to his “personal agenda.” Wapato pointed to HERE’s active role in opposing Cal.’s Prop 5 that was favorable to Indian gaming. Wilhelm’s union filed an amicus brief with anti-Prop 5 forces in litigation to test the proposition’s constitutionality. Jerry Levine, attorney representing various tribes, said Wilhelm was not fit … Read More ➡
James P. Hoffa’s victory as Teamsters president was cleared for certification Jan. 28 by Michael G. Cherkasky, the court-appointed election monitor, after a delay due corruption charges against Hoffa slate members. But Cherkasky did bar Hoffa running mate J.D. Potter of Tex. from assuming his vice-president seat on the Teamsters board. Potter was charged with with lying about breaking donation limits. Union rules limited Potter to giving $5,000 to Hoffa’s campaign, and he said that an additional $5,000 he gave came from other members. He also claimed that the original bills (U.S. dollars) they gave him were still in his car, and he produced $4,700 in cash from his trunk. But 13 of the bills were not in circulation at the time he claimed to have collected them. [A.P. 1/28/99]
Buffalo Boss’ Libel Suit Dismissed
Teamsters Local 449 boss Bruce W. LeRoy’s $200,000 libel suit against his local dissidents … Read More ➡