Teamsters Local 120 leader rebuts accusations

  • Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 17, 2012 - 8:59 PM

Local 120 leader calls allegations of "financial malpractice" unfounded.

Accused of corruption and yanked as secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 120, Brad Slawson Sr. told a Teamsters panel on Monday that he and his son are victims of a "witch hunt" because they ceased supporting the union's top leader, James P. Hoffa.

Slawson and his son Brad Slawson Jr. -- Local 120's two top leaders -- had been Hoffa supporters until 2010, when they backed a rival candidate for president of the Teamsters union. Slawson claims he also asked for an inquiry into alleged irregularities in Hoffa's 2010 campaign.

Hoffa put Local 120 into "emergency trusteeship" last month and put Slawson Sr. and Slawson Jr. on unpaid leaves of absence. The Slawsons could lose their posts permanently.

With more than 11,000 members, Teamsters 120 is one of the two biggest Minnesota-based Teamsters locals.

The emergency trusteeship followed an investigation by the Teamsters Independent Review Board that alleged "financial malpractice" by the Slawsons, particularly involving the construction of a new union hall in Blaine and the operation of the Teamsters Club, a Local 120-owned bar in Fargo, N.D. The review board was created about 20 years ago, at the behest of the U.S. Justice Department, to root out corruption within the Teamsters.

At a hearing Monday before a panel of three Teamsters officials from outside of Minnesota, Local 120 trustee William Moore, a Teamster from Kansas, made a case for the trusteeship. Local 120 members and officers could speak for or against the trusteeship.

Slawson Sr. delivered a stinging rebuttal of the review board's allegations. "Not one of the allegations you will hear today -- or have heard by rumor or read in the papers -- is true," he said.

While the hearing was closed to reporters, Slawson Sr.'s lawyer provided a copy of his remarks.

In 2010, the Teamsters Club was having financial difficulty, so Local 120 retained a consultant, Todd Chester, a Slawson family friend who had operated bars in the northern suburbs. Chester's mission: to "let me know if the bar should be shut down or could be saved," Slawson told the hearing.

Chester provided a list of solutions that ultimately worked, and Slawson said that allegations that Local 120 was funding the Teamsters Club in Fargo -- essentially covering its losses -- are "completely unfounded and false."

Since August 2011, the bar and its gaming operation have made money in every month except one, he said.

The review board report said that Chester tried to concoct a fake benefit for a sick baby at the Fargo bar. But Slawson called the allegation "nonsensical as well as false." And he questioned the review board's conclusion that thousands of dollars of liquor and beer inventory went missing and was "diverted" -- possibly by Chester.

The review board "did not find one person who saw any products stolen or being removed from the premises," Slawson said. "With the security cameras in the building, it would be very hard -- impossible -- to steal the amount that [the Teamsters international union] is claiming as lost."

Since the review board's report was released, Local 120's trustee and Teamsters auditors have found more instances of potential mismanagement, said Bret Caldwell, a spokesman for the Teamsters.

The local indirectly donated $20,000 -- in four payments of $5,000, beginning in October 2007 -- to the Blaine Youth Hockey Association, Caldwell said. The payments originated from charitable gambling at the Teamsters Club in Fargo, Caldwell said.

Local 120's trustee alleges that Slawson Jr. received a personal benefit from the donation: He was named vice president of the Blaine Youth Hockey Association and his wife became its charitable gaming manager, Caldwell said.

However, neither appear to be paid positions. And Slawson Jr. may have held his position with the Blaine Youth Hockey Association before the donations by Local 120.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003

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