New York Reform Candidate Fired

Dominick Bentivegna, a union staffer who stood up to corruption in a powerful N.Y.C. local, was fired Apr. 9 from his $85,000-a-year union job after declaring he would run for president of Serv. Employees Int’l Union Local 32B-32J. He helped oust local boss Gus Bevona in 1999 amid reports of financial irregularities and a $6 million black marble penthouse.

Under new leadership, Bentivegna took a job supervising shop stewards. But he became fed up with excessive spending and a lack of union democracy, and he marched into local president Michael Fishman’s office and declared he was running against the boss in Sept. 2003. Twenty minutes later, he says, he was terminated. “He said, ‘You’re not going to work for me and run for office,'” Bentivegna said.

“It’s not about democracy,” Fishman said. “If you disagree with the program, you can’t be working here.” Attorney Alan Serrins said Bentivegna will contest the firing in federal court. Bentivegna retains his elected position as assistant secretary to local. [Daily News; N.Y. Post 4/11/02]

DOL Action Reportedly Nearing in $800 Million Florida Hotel Case
The Dep’t of Labor is reportedly nearing the end of its investigation into the United Ass’n of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters’ investment in the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa near Miami. Martin J. Maddaloni, president of the union whose pension fund owns the $800 million Diplomat, recently mailed a letter to UA locals to alert them that DOL may “take action” against the trustees of the pension fund. Reportedly, DOL asked for five of the fund’s six fiduciaries to resign, including Maddaloni.

UA bought the Diplomat in 1997 and sold it to its pension fund. The transaction drew the attention of DOL, which required that the pension fund hire an independent overseer to monitor costs. Still, costs continued to mount. The Wall St. Journal estimated that UA’s investment in the Diplomat amounts to 20% of the fund’s assets. “I don’t think it’s quite that high,” Maddaloni said. He acknowledged, however, that DOL is “concerned” about the cost overruns of the nearly four-year construction project. [Miami Herald 4/4/02]

Florida Boss Indicted for $70,000 Theft
Jack D. Hatch, ex-president of Retail, Wholesale & Dep’t Store Union Local 43 in Dade City, Fla., was indicted on one count of embezzling some $70,000 in union funds by charging excessive and unauthorized lost time, making personal charges on the local’s credit cards, and receiving unauthorized expense reimbursements between Nov. 1996 and Mar. 2000.  [DOL 3/28/02; USAO M.D. Fla. 3/28/02]

Alleged $41,200 Theft Forces Resignation
Cecil Argue, president of the Int’l Union of Operating Eng’rs Local 139 in Milwaukee since 1998, resigned Mar. 22 under a cloud of corruption. Argue’s resignation followed allegations that he made unauthorized deductions of $41,200 from a nonunion fund over the past five years. Reportedly, the local had already fired Argue from his role as director of organizing and had demanded his resignation. “Unfortunately, mistakes that I have made in my personal life have made it impossible for me to continue on in my role as president of this great union,” according to Argue’s resignation letter.

Joe Wineke, the local’s public relations director, said Argue was the steward of a voluntary fund which is used for election activities, parties, and nonunion expenses. He claimed that Argue, without authorization, removed $41,200. “To say we’re disgusted is to put it mildly,” said Wineke. “We put our trust in this man and he violated that trust.”
 After the allegations, the local hired  an accounting firm to audit the local and its funds. It found “no evidence of improprieties involving Mr. Argue and [IUOE] Local 139 unions assets.” There was no report of whether the matter has been referred to law enforcement. [Daily Reporter (Milwaukee) 4/8/02]