The Northwest Indiana District Council of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners has gone through a rocky past few years. They aren’t getting any smoother either. This past May, Gerry Nannenga, formerly council secretary-treasurer, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for accepting bribes in connection with a scheme to purchase a 55-acre tract of land with $10 million in union pension money. The land, part of the Coffee Creek planned community project in Chesterton, Ind., actually was worth only about $5 million. Nannenga, a trustee of the pension plan, also faces a civil suit filed by the Labor Department in August against him and several other trustees. Now comes more bad news. On December 7, the Justice Department announced it had charged the district council’s former office manager, Sally Collins, 51, with stealing $300,697 during March 1995-July 2001. Prosecutors also named her husband, Robert Collins, 54, as a co-defendant.
Collins for years had worked for the council prior to its merger into the Indiana-Kentucky Regional Council of Carpenters. She was fired last summer after a union-requested audit concluded that she’d written union checks to a dummy company she and her husband created. “These union members have worked hard for their money, and they are entitled to know that their money is safe,” said U.S. Attorney Joseph Van Bokkenen. “This office takes seriously allegations of abuse of trust and misappropriation of funds.” (Associated Press, 12/8).