Visiting a strip joint can provide some fleeting pleasures. Thomas Leonard found out that the tab can be more long-lasting, especially if the money to pay for them comes out of union funds. Leonard, former recording secretary for Laborers International Union of North America Local 500 in Toledo, Ohio, pleaded guilty on October 2 in federal court to using his local credit card in 2004 to pay for visits to strip clubs totaling $4,386. He already has paid restitution, which should lighten the sentence. Former local business manager Steven Thomas is facing similar charges.
Federal prosecutors had charged that Leonard and Thomas on various occasions visited Scarlett’s Gentlemen’s Club in Toledo and Kahoot’s Gentlemen’s Club in Columbus, charging drinks and related costs to “personal expenses” without permission from the union board. Thomas soaked up more of the bill, racking up around $17,500 in charges during December 2003-December 2004, plus another $11,000 in travel allowances during September 2001-October 2005. In all, the pair charged more than $30,000 in unauthorized expenses to their union-issued credit cards.
Leonard’s attorney, Jerry Phillips, maintained that it was standard practice at the time for the local to transact business inside strip clubs, and that his client unwittingly became involved. “Unfortunately at the time, he was a subordinate and this was the way the leaders of that local were attempting to conduct business,” he said. In 2006, following an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, the parent LIUNA organization filed disciplinary action against Leonard and Thomas and removed them from office. Criminal indictments followed this past July 23. Since the affair, the Local 500 board has required its business agents to complete daily activity reports and tightened member usage of credit cards. (Toledo Blade, 10/3/08).