For decades, federal employees have used working hours to conduct union business, effectively forcing taxpayers to cover the costs of activity unrelated to job responsibilities. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., thinks this practice, known as ‘official time,’ is due for an overhaul. On March 26, Hice unveiled the Federal Employee Accountability Act (H.R. 1658). The bill, which has gathered more than 15 House co-sponsors, would bar unionized federal workers from engaging in bargaining or arbitration while collecting wages and salaries. “After examining the practices of over 60 government agencies,” said Hice, “my office has found an astounding amount of government waste. By eliminating the ‘official time’ practice, we will return over $1 billion to hardworking American taxpayers, and shed this shady, wasteful practice that only benefits unions.”
On March 20, Alfonso Rodriguez, former financial secretary of United Transportation Union Local 117, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Washington to one count of false reporting in connection with his theft of funds from the Southworth (Kitsap County), Washington-based union. He also agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $34,601. Sentencing is set for June. The plea follows a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
It’s a familiar story: A union official with a gambling problem steals from the till to cover personal losses. On March 31, John Earvin, former president of the United Federation of Law Enforcement Officers (UFLEO), was arrested by federal agents for embezzling nearly $50,000 over more than three years from the Bellerose (Nassau County, Long Island), N.Y.-based union, which represents Special Inspectors at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He had been indicted on one count of wire fraud the previous day in Manhattan federal court following a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On March 26, Michael Low, former secretary-treasurer of Laborers International Union of North America Local 2097, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma to one count of making a false statement in financial records of the Oklahoma City union in connection with his embezzlement of $12,937. He then pleaded guilty. The charge and plea follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
In the motion picture world, news about a scandal can travel slowly – very slowly. Late in March, Paramount Pictures announced it had dismissed a longtime executive, Stephen Koppekin, two years earlier for embezzling an unspecified sum of funds from three union benefit plans to which the studio makes contributions. The departure of Koppekin, Paramount’s vice president of industrial relations and a trustee for the plans, originally was reported as “retirement.” Yet the real explanation was his hand in the till, says a whistleblower ex-employee, Nichole Goluskin. Koppekin denies all accusations. Yet even if he is innocent, the problem of benefits theft, and cover-up, may be far more common to the film industry than realized. The U.S. Department of Labor, for one, wants some answers.
On April 1, Henry Mayer, former financial secretary of National Association of Letter Carriers Local 852, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington to one count of embezzlement of an unspecified sum from the Yakima-based union. Mayer had been indicted on March 25 following an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On March 30, Curtis Bullick, former president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 3254, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana to theft of property of an unspecified amount from the Bunker Hill, Ind.-based union. Bullick had been charged on March 13 following a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On March 2, Kimberly Hesla, former secretary-treasurer of Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Division 474, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Northern Illinois to one year of probation, and was ordered to pay a fine of $1,000 and a special assessment of $25, for falsifying financial records of the Chicago-based union. She had pleaded guilty in November after being charged in October. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On March 3, Nathan McCallister, former secretary-treasurer of Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Division 101, a Teamsters affiliate, was charged in the Summers County Court of West Virginia with one count of embezzlement in an amount of more than $1,000. The charge follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Sheron Gibson won the trust of his union – too much, in fact. On March 5, Gibson, a former firefighter for the City of Suffolk, Va. fire department, pleaded guilty in a state court to one count each of embezzlement and forgery in connection with his theft of about $109,000 from International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2801, where he was secretary-treasurer for a half-decade. He had been indicted last June on 12 counts of embezzlement and one count of forgery following a police investigation. Gibson has made full restitution.