If Shawn Clark believes he’s innocent, then the case of Steven Thomas won’t provide too much encouragement. Thomas for a while served as business manager of Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 500 in Toledo, Ohio until he and local recording secretary Thomas Leonard were charged with making unauthorized use of their union credit cards to pay for visits to strip clubs. Leonard last October pleaded guilty in Toledo federal court to racking up unauthorized cumulative charges of $4,386. Now his partner is facing the same music. This past May, Steven Thomas pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement totaling $17,500, plus another $11,000 in illegal travel allowances.
Investigative reporting by The Toledo Blade first brought the duo’s spending patterns to light in 2006. Steven Thomas in particular came off poorly. He drew an annual union salary of $130,638, drove a union-provided luxury full-size sport utility vehicle, and had an expense account that exceeded $30,000 a year. What’s more, as he and his friend were charging drinks and entertainment at Scarlett’s (Toledo) and Kahoot’s (Columbus) gentlemen’s clubs during December 2003-December 2004, they eliminated $15 Thanksgiving and Christmas gifts to members and retirees in the name of “cost-cutting.” On top of that, Thomas had received about $11,000 in unauthorized travel allowances during September 2001-October 2005. The U.S. Labor Department subsequently conducted its own probe and referred the case to the Justice Department for prosecution. The LIUNA parent union filed disciplinary charges against the pair in 2006 and removed them from office. Criminal indictments came down last July.
Thomas, 41, a resident of Toledo, explained his behavior as a lack of acquired management skills, as he was head of an organization for the first time. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Karol didn’t find that a convincing excuse, given that he omitted the names of Scarlett’s and Kahoot’s on union financial statements. According to the government, Thomas owes restitution in the amount of about $28,000, of which he has paid roughly $10,000. Since the case broke, the local union now requires its business agents to complete daily activity reports on who they talk to and where they go.