Is Banned Teamster still Running Chicago Local?

Bill Hogan Jr. ruled Chicago‘s 100,000-member Teamsters empire with a sharp tongue and an iron fist.  But he was expelled in 2002 after being accused of undercutting his union by helping a nonunion company where his brother worked.  Stripped of his positions, Hogan was banned from ever associating with Teamsters again.


But in the 2-1/2 years since his exile, Hogan has maintained ties to high-level Chicago Teamsters, talking to them on the phone and meeting them at restaurants, his home, even at union functions, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. Hogan insists the contacts have been casual and no union business was discussed.   Internal union investigators have concluded, however, that Hogan continues to be a powerful force behind the Teamsters — and perhaps is even running things in Chicago through intermediaries.


The Independent Review Board, the government-anointed watchdog that kicked Hogan out, is taking a closer look at Hogan’s activities after investigators turned over their findings from a wide-ranging examination of the Teamsters.  The IRB or the government could pursue contempt of court charges against Hogan for failing to keep away from the Teamsters, sources said.  Teamsters who haven’t stayed away from Hogan could face lifetime banishment from the union if the IRB finds they are “knowingly associating” with Hogan.


One union boss the review board is taking a hard look at is John Coli, a longtime Hogan friend now holding Hogan’s old job as chief of the region’s Teamsters.  Earlier this year, Hogan attended a cocktail party on a yacht during the AFL-CIO’s winter meetings in Florida.  Booze and hors d’oeuvres were plentiful at the gala, attended by Illinois politicians such as Secretary of State Jesse White and representatives of  various labor groups.


Coli told the review board in a Sept. 28 sworn statement that he briefly spoke with Hogan on the boat. “It was so crowded, I did bump into him and say, ‘Hi, how are you doing?'” Coli said, adding other Chicago Teamsters leaders also were onboard.  In his deposition he denied talking to Hogan about Teamsters Local 727 getting the valet contract from a Rosemont casino.  “I know there was some discussion — not with Bill Hogan…with me and politicians — about a casino for Rosemont and making sure that the Teamsters were going to get the valet parking concession,” Coli said.


But an April memo from an Illinois Gaming Board investigator said Coli and Hogan did indeed talk about a casino valet contract.  


On another front, the union’s former internal ethics watchdog, Edwin Stier, and his investigators, have documented other union contacts with Hogan.  Last fall, Hogan drove to Navy Pier for a meeting of the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau, of which he’s a member.  A prime parking space was arranged in the loading dock by Teamsters, sources said.  Hogan’s brother-in-law, a Teamsters steward at Navy Pier, reportedly greeted Hogan when he and his Lincoln arrived.  Hogan shook hands and spoke with other Teamsters, too before heading to the meeting.


Hogan also has continued meeting with the lawyer representing the Joint Council and the Local long run by Hogan’s family, sources said.  Such examples were compiled in a report by the Stier’s squad until he disbanded the unit amid accusations that national Teamsters President James P. Hoffa was thwarting Stier’s investigations.  “I don’t think Hoffa’s trying to protect Hogan,” Stier said. “What I believe that Hoffa’s afraid of is, if he doesn’t protect the people being manipulated by Hogan, they’re going to somehow gang up on him.”


The IRB, meanwhile, recently decided to hammer one of Coli’s fellow Joint Council 25 officers, Joseph Bernstein.  In a recent deposition, Bernstein admitted having lunch with Hogan in Des Plaines last fall and speaking to him on the telephone and at the yacht party. The IRB recommended kicking out Bernstein. [Chicago Sun-Times, 11/14/04]