New Charges in Minnesota Case; $43,300 Theft

A federal grand jury returned additional felony charges May 21 against Thomas J. Martin, ex-business manager of United Ass’n of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters Local 15 in Minneapolis, and Minneapolis City Council member Joe Biernat  (DFL).  Each face two added mail fraud charges in connection with Martin’s alleged use of $2,700 in union funds to pay for plumbing work in 1999 at Biernat’s home.

The original indictment, unsealed Apr. 18, charged that Martin paid for Biernat’s plumbing work at the same time Biernat and his colleagues were approving Martin’s appointment to the city board that certifies plumbers to work in the city. The new indictment also increases the amount of money Martin is charged with stealing to $43,323, taken on six occasions between 1998-2001. Originally, he was charged with a $17,877 embezzlement. The indictment gives no indication of how Martin used the other money he allegedly stole.

Reportedly, Martin and Biernat used the mail to send invoices and checks related to the plumbing work. In addition to mail fraud, the two face charges of extortion, conspiracy, and theft. Biernat also faces charges of making a false statement. Martin allegedly obstructed justice and concealed information from investigators.

Since the indictments were first returned, City Council President Paul Ostrow (DFL) proposed that the licensing boards be eliminated. Disturbingly, Biernat, still in office, insisted on conducting the first hearing on the proposed change in mid-May as chairman of the council’s Public Safety & Regulatory Servs. Committee, despite Ostrow’s fears that it might appear to be a conflict of interest. Action on the plan was delayed to give unions and businesses time to comment on the proposal. [Star Trib. (Minneapolis) 5/22/02]

“When Mr. Trumka says ‘whatever it takes’ he more than likely means using deceit, deception and violence to aid the local Culinary [union] as it negotiates with numerous Strip hotels. Mr. Trumka is experienced at all of the above.”

-Douglas E. French, Letter to the Editor, Las Vegas Rev. Journal, May 20, 2002, commenting on AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Richard L. Trumka’s promise to aid Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Local 226 (a.k.a. Culinary Local 226) in negotiations with several Las Vegas hotels.