Review Board Hears Case Against Detroit Bosses

Two federal investigators testified Feb. 5 that the leadership of Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters Local 337 in Detroit misused members’ dues to fund their own reelection campaigns. At a hearing of the Independent Review Board, retired Dep’t of Labor investigator Craig Woodhouse said officers in the local nion voted to give themselves a $100-a-week pay raise in 1996 without approval of the rank and file, and that some of that money went into the local officers’ reelection campaign.

On June 2, IRB recommended that six Local 337 board members, including president Lawrence P. Brennan, be disciplined over allegedly funneling at least $14,000 in union dues into their reelection coffers, without members’ permission. An IBT panel dismissed the charges and referred its decision to the board, which now will decide whether to take action. Brennan, who is also president of Joint Council 43 and a close ally of IBT boss James P. Hoffa, denied the allegations.

Woodhouse and FBI Special Agent Paul Russo interviewed local vice-president Colonel Myers on June 6, 1997. The interview came following a tip from IBT lawyer Brian Kelly that Myers might discuss alleged corruption at the local. After refusing to answer specific questions about checks for the campaign, “a visibly shaken” Myers went to the bathroom, Russo said. “After a long time, he came back out and said, ‘I don’t know whether I should do this. And I hope I don’t live to regret this,'” Woodhouse testified. Brennan’s attorney dismissed the testimony as Myers’ “bathroom exorcism” and reiterated that the officers did nothing wrong, because the membership did approve the raise and that it wasn’t unreasonable.

However, IRB investigators note that the union officers in Apr. 1996 received a bonus in lieu of a raise of at least $2,000, with a second payment to be made later that year. The leaders asked for the early half of the bonus because they were afraid that then-Teamsters President Ron Carey would put the local into trusteeship. The $100-a-week raise was to be a payback for depositing the $2,000 bonus check into the union campaign account, the board’s 42-page June report said. But the union ended the raise after 13 weeks, because it was running a deficit.

In a setback for the review board, Russo testified he didn’t know who orchestrated the plan, despite repeated questions by the board members. Woodhouse testified Myers named Brennan as the mastermind. Woodhouse also said that Myers told them that some of the union funds were transferred to Hoffa’s campaign account, but he declined to elaborate. Much of Myers’ statement remains under court seal.

A federal grand jury has had Local 337 under investigation for years. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has declined to comment on whether the union leaders face indictment. [Det. News 02/06/01]

Kentucky Boss Sentenced for False Statements
U.S. Dist. Judge Thomas B. Russell in Paducah, Ky., sentenced union boss Lawrence A. Triche Jan. 16 to one year probation and imposed a $500 fine and a $100 special penalty assessment. Triche was convicted Oct. 12 of making false statements to a Dep’t of Labor investigator.  Triche, who was vice-chairman and secretary-treasurer of the Bhd. of Maintenance of Way Employees, was charged with lying to the federal agent, who was conducting an audit on Feb. 23, 1999, at the union’s office in Mayfield, Ky., to determine Triche’s reasons for writing himself a check for $3,162 in union funds. Triche told the agent the check was written to cover union-related travel expenses, when it was not. [USAO W.D. Ky., Media Release 01/16/01]

Indiana Boss Gets 8 Months for $17,400 Embezzlement
U.S. Dist. Judge Richard L. Young, in Evansville, Ind., sentenced union boss Elizabeth A. Schaefer Oct. 19 to eight months imprisonment for union embezzlement.  Schaefer, the ex-treasurer of Am. Postal Workers Union Local 347 in Newburgh, Ind., pled guilty to embezzling approximately $17,396.50 of union funds from Nov. 1996 to Oct. 1997. The corruption was uncovered by an investigation by the Dep’t of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.  Young also imposed two years supervised release following Schaefer’s release from prison, but he did not fine her. Restitution had already been paid. [USAO S.D. Ind., Media Release 10/19/00]