Members of Int’l Bhd. Teamsters Local 705 have accused their secretary-treasurer Gerald Zero of misusing more than $500,000 in union dues. The accusations appear to be part an election battle over the Chicago local. “Gerry Zero took $500,000 in dues money and threw it down the drain with fat salaries for his friends and political allies,” said Local 705 president John McCormick, who was among two dozen IBT members protesting outside Local 705 Oct. 16. McCormick is running against Zero for the top post.
McCormick, who three years ago was a Zero supporter and elected as part of Zero’s slate, said Zero has bloated the local’s staff and had to take out a loan to meet the local’s payroll on Oct. 13. McCormick, who is a member of the executive board, also charged that the loan was taken without board approval.
Local 705 is historically corrupt. It was placed under trusteeship in the early 1980s. In 1992, ex-Local 705 secretary-treasurer Daniel C. Ligurotis, Sr., was acquitted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of his son, a Local 705 trustee, who was killed in the basement of Teamsters building. In 1993, Ligurotis was ousted from the union amid allegations of embezzlement. Civil suits filed in 1992 and 1995 accused him and others of hiring convicted felons with mob ties to work at the local and of improperly investing $2 million in an upscale restaurant that ultimately failed. The suits resulted in a $13.5 million settlement.
Zero — elected as part of a “reform slate” — was himself convicted in 1996 of misdemeanor battery charges after assaulting a member at Local 705’s offices. He was suspended from his post for a year. McCormick said the local had a $200,000 surplus prior to Zero’s return. “We’re now more than $300,000 in debt,” said McCormick, who along with three other board members were fired from their positions as business agents by Zero after his return.
Zero responded that while he was suspended, McCormick and the board ran up unnecessary expenses, including $170,000 for a new dental office. He added they opposed a plan to run the local election simultaneously with an IBT delegate election, which would have saved the local about $100,000. Zero also contended he took action against the board members because they failed to perform their duties as business agents.
Nevertheless, in Aug. 2000, U.S. Dist. Judge Milton Shadur ruled that Zero wrongfully retaliated against McCormick and other board members because they took opposing positions against Zero in union business matters. Shadur ordered Zero to reinstate them and not to interfere with the performance of their duties. Zero is appealing the ruling. Ballots in the local election will be mailed out in Nov. 2000. [Chi. Sun-Times 10/17/00]