Iron Workers’ Top Boss Resigns

The president of the Int’l Ass’n of Bridge, Structural & Ornamental Iron Workers, Jake West, resigned Feb. 23 amid corruption allegations. West became president in 1989 and had appeared to be moving toward seeking another 5-year term this July. His annual salary was more than $200,000 and will be the unpaid president emeritus of the D.C.-based union. He was succeeded by Joe Hunt, Jr., who was general treasurer.

West’s resignation comes as the FBI and U.S. Atty’s Office in D.C. continue to investigate his ties to ex-D.C. police chief Larry D. Soulsby. Prosecutors have tried to determine whether West used union money to bestow favors on Soulsby and whether the ex-chief did anything in return. Prosecutors alleged unnamed D.C. police officials were treated to meals and entertainment with money embezzled from BSOIW. Sources have said that Soulsby was on at least one golf outing with West that was paid for with embezzled union funds.

Authorities began looking at BSOIW in 1998 because Soulsby was a frequent companion of West. That led to an examination of BSOIW’s records and to charges that four union boss stole union funds to pay for personal expenses. Three bosses have pled guilty  and agreed to aid in the probe: Darrel E. Shelton, ex-BSOIW organizer, who admitted embezzling up to $120,000; Fred G. Summers, ex-executive director of organizing, who admitted embezzling more than $50,000; and Michael J. Brennan, ex-head of the Iron Workers Political Action League, who admitted taking part in the theft of $7,000. A fourth, general secretary James E. Cole, was indicted in Jan. on charges that he embezzled more than $10,000. He has pled not guilty; his trial is June 18. [Wash. Post 2/25/01]

Wilhelm Imposes Trusteeship on Hawaiian Local where Int’l VP Defeated
The Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Int’l Union placed HERE Local 5 Feb. 26 into trusteeship after a dispute between a top boss and the executive board prevented the negotiation of contracts covering hotel employees in Hawaii. HERE boss John Wilhelm appointed Sherri Chiesa, HERE’s western regional director, to run the local.

The trouble arose after Eric Gill, a kitchen steward at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, defeated longtime incumbent secretary-treasurer Tony Rutledge by several dozen votes in an election held last spring. The majority of executive board members who were elected had run with Rutledge. Since the election, Gill and the board have been at odds. Since his defeat, Rutledge has kept his post as a HERE int’l vice president, to which he was elected at HERE’s 1996 convention. [BNA 3/2/01]