Two months after Tristram Korten of Miami New Times exposed the fire fighter union treasurer’s misuse of union funds for personal expenses, and the hierarchy’s insistence on treating it as in internal matter, the State Attny. has begun an investigation. When officials of Local 587 of the Intl. Assn. of Fire Fighters discovered that Keith Beckler had spent $16,000 in union funds on such personal expenses as a Disney World vacation with his girlfriend, Local president Ed Piderman insisted that “the union is not a public entity,” and that the matter would be handled internally.
In her first article, Korten pointed out that since govt. union officials are entitled to 6,000 hrs of pay while doing union business, it was taxpayers’ money Beckler had spent. In addition to the State Attny. investigation, Korten reports that the Miami Auditor General is now reviewing the union’s records. Given what Korten has found, the auditor may be busy for awhile.
Armed with a public records request, Korten compared the fire dept’s.’ handwritten attendance records with the dept’s.’ computerized breakdown of each employee’s time between vacation, sick leave and time spent on union business. To cite just one example, Local vice president Ruben Bargueiras claimed 34 hrs of pay while conducting union business in Jan. 2002. But the computer records credit him with 74 hrs spent on union business in the same month. [Miami New Times, 6/19/03]