Diop Mentally Unfit for Trial

N.Y. State Justice William Leibovitz ruled Dec. 21 that ex-Am. Fed’n of State, County & Municipal Employees Dist. Council 37 boss Albert A. Diop was not mentally fit to stand trial on charges of embezzling more than $1 million from the union’s Local 1549. Leibovitz said that Diop was “an incapacitated person” and that he be committed to a state mental hospital.  Leibovitz issued his ruling after hearing the reports of two court-appointed psychiatrists. Diop was to go on trial for allegedly stealing money from his local for lavish vacations and personal items.

AFSCME forced Diop to resign for alleged financial misconduct after an audit found $2 million in improper expenditures by Diop, Local 1549 officials James Edey, Lionel Scott and Mary Wilson. The four made more than $1 million in “unexplained payments” and from 1994-98 made almost $1 million credit card purchases for alleged personal expenses. Reportedly, Diop lived in a secret penthouse apartment above union headquarters paid for by the union. He was one of the best paid union bosses in the city, earning $191,000 a year from the local and another $18,000 from AFSCME.

Diop had been scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 22 by N.Y. State Justice Bonnie Wittner on his prior conviction of stuffing ballot boxes to win passage of an union contract for city employees in 1996. Leibovitz ruling means that no sentence will be forthcoming.  Diop will be taken to a mental hospital where he will be held pending an examination in six months. If he is found to still be unfit, another examination will be conducted six months later. After that, he will be examined once a year until he is found fit to stand trial. [N.Y. Times; Newsday, UPI 12/22/00]

“Congratulations, John Sweeney.  The AFL-CIO chief was Al Gore’s staunchest supporter, and this week George W. Bush rewarded him by nominating his worst nightmare as the next secretary of labor.

As a Hispanic women who once belonged to a teachers’ union, Linda Chavez, will be difficult for Democrats to defeat.  Yet as a veteran of ideological combat, she won’t hesitate to speak to workers over the heads of union leaders.  She’s conservative but no blunderbuss.  Which is precisely why she’s a threat to Mr. Sweeney, and an encouraging sign about Mr. Bush.”

– Paul A. Gigot, Columnist, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 5, 2001.