10/30/07

Hoffa on the spot in corrupt Chicago Teamsters bust-up

An oversight panel has urged the takeover of powerful Chicago Teamsters Local 714, claiming its leaders allowed sham contracts and steered lucrative movie industry jobs in Chicago to relatives. An investigator for the federally mandated Independent Review Board in New York would only confirm Monday that the anti-corruption unit had recommended placing the local under trusteeship.

Officials with Local 714 could not be reached, and Teamsters officials in Washington, D.C., said the union would not comment until Teamsters President James P. Hoffa has made a "final decision." The union would appoint a trustee to oversee the local if Hoffa upholds the report's recommendation. But a copy of the 250-page report obtained by the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a dissident group within the union, outlines the results of a long probe into the 10,000-member local.

Founded in the Depression by the late William Hogan Sr., the local has operated as a Hogan family dynasty. Its top official is Robert Hogan, and his father, William Hogan Jr., led the local until the review board in 2002 barred him from the union for his role in a plot to drive down wages and benefits of Las Vegas Teamsters. Robert Hogan's uncle, James M. Hogan, is the local's president.

The local allegedly had an "unwritten contract" with officials at several companies which allowed only a certain number of workers to join the union, according to the report. Similarly, the local allegedly looked the other way as non-union workers from labor agencies performed work normally assigned to Teamsters, and local officials did not speak out when workers failed to receive raises guaranteed under contract, the report said.

The local hired a close associate of William Hogan Jr., who continued to have contact with the local's former leader despite the fact union members were barred from associating with him, according to the report.

Dated Aug. 27, the report asks union president Hoffa to let the review board know whatever action he takes.

Ken Paff, head of the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, suggested that the anti-corruption unit would act on its own if Hoffa failed to follow the report's recommendations.

Ed Stier, a former federal prosecutor who had led the union's own clean-up operation, hailed the report, saying it touched on issues his own group had cited three years ago.

But the union's clean-up effort came to a crashing halt in 2004 when Stier's investigators began looking into allegations of wrongdoing among Chicago Teamsters along with mobsters' influence over top Teamsters.

Stier had called for a full-blown probe, but he resigned when union leaders blocked his request to expand his probe.

At the time, Teamsters officials in Washington described allegations raised by Stier investigators as "uncorroborated and unsubstantiated." A follow-up report by another former federal prosecutor, commissioned by the union, discounted the allegations of mob links to union officials.

"I'm glad to see that the IRB is pursuing these corruption issues in Chicago," Stier said on Monday, adding "I think there is more to do."

The review board was created as a result of a 1989 federal court consent agreement between the union and government that was meant to clean up corruption within the Teamsters' ranks.

(chicagotribune.com)

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