Kansas City Boss Pleads Guilty to Cover Up

Max E. Biggerstaff, ex-secretary-treasurer of Int’l Ass’n of Fire Fighters Local I-34 in Kansas City, pled guilty Nov. 29 to falsifying union records to conceal embezzlements by him and the local’s ex-president. In Aug. 2000, Roger L. Mathisen pled guilty to embezzling $18,404 while president from 1996-98. The embezzlement was uncovered after the local inquired into his financial dealings.

Biggerstaff acknowledged that he had prepared a document in Apr. 1998 that falsely showed that Mathisen had received a $2,159 loan from the local. Mathisen had, in fact, embezzled the funds. Biggerstaff also admitted that he embezzled $2,478 when he was reimbursed for unauthorized mileage, travel and meeting expenses. Biggerstaff was secretary-treasurer from 1995 to 1998. [K.C. Star 11/30/00]

New York Boss Sent to Bellevue
Albert A. Diop, an ex-boss of Am. Fed’n of State, County & Mun. Employees Dist. Council 37 in Manhattan, had his $125,000 bail revoked Nov. 22 after a court-appointed psychiatrist found he was not mentally fit to be tried on charges of stealing more than $1 million from AFSCME. Diop, who had been in an in-patient program at local hospital, was ordered transferred to a jail ward at Bellevue Hospital by State Supreme Court Justice William Leibovitz. Diop was president of Local 1549 and  a member of DC37’s executive board.

The embezzlement case would be Diop’s second run-in with the prosecutors’ probe into widespread corruption in DC37. He was previously convicted of fraud for rigging a vote to ratify a controversial city contract. Prosecutors and Diop’s attorney Ramon Pagan said it was unlikely that he would be sentenced as scheduled in mid-Dec.

Diop’s three codefendants in the case involving the theft of money pled guilty last month. One agreed to a sentence of probation; two accepted pleas calling for prison terms of 1.5 to 4.5 years in prison and 2 to 6 years in prison. [Newsday (N.Y.) 11/23/00]

DOJ Terminates HERE Oversight
On Dec. 1, the Clinton-Reno Justice Dep’t signed an agreement to end five years of  “oversight” of the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Int’l Union. The deal was signed after a court-appointed monitor found that the HERE had been largely purged of its ties to organized crime. In the agreement, DOJ officials and U.S. Dist. Judge Garrett E. Brown, Jr., Dist. of N.J.,  praised the “cleanup” and said they would look to the union’s internal ethical practices board to play a strong watchdog role. Brown directed that HERE maintain its ethical-practices code and a three-member board to investigate suspected violations. [N.Y. Times 12/3/00]

However, this board has failed to move on Nat’l Legal & Pol’y Ctr. request for a probe of HERE boss John W. Wilhelm’s questionable moves implementing “reform recommendations.” The allegations included apparent maintenance of the old guard and a failure to close the Midwest Regional Office despite a firm recommendation from a court-monitor to do so. NLPC filed the complaint in Aug. 1999. In Sept. 1999, NLPC received a polite letter from the board’s attorney Kenneth P. Purcell stating that the board shared NLPC’s concern. However, no further action has been reported, which raises questions about the integrity of HERE’s self-policing apparatus.