Teamsters urge penalties for two Blaine Local 120 figures

  • Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 9, 2013 - 10:52 PM

Recommended sanctions for former leaders of Local 120 in Blaine include steep fines, but their lawyer says they will fight in court.

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Teamsters Local 120 building in Blaine.

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A Teamsters panel has concluded that the top two former leaders of Blaine-based Local 120 should be banned from union leadership positions for life and should pay fines worth tens of thousands of dollars to make up for allegedly embezzled union funds.

The recommendations, which were adopted this month by Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa, follow an investigation over allegations of financial misconduct by Bradley Slawson Sr. and Bradley Slawson Jr. The fines do not carry the force of law and essentially don’t have to be repaid unless the Slawsons want to get back in the union.

But the penalties seem about as harsh as the union could impose. “The charged offenses here are extremely serious,” said the Teamsters panel’s report on the Slawsons. “The bulk of the offenses were committed by two experienced union officers. … We are struck by the total lack of mitigating circumstances.”

Local 120 is one of Minnesota’s largest Teamsters locals, with over 11,000 members, and the Slawsons have been nationally known Teamsters leaders. They were removed from their posts in November when the Teamsters international union put Local 120 into emergency trusteeship.

The accusations against the Slawsons stem from an investigation concluded last year by the Teamsters Independent Review Board, which is partly commissioned by the U.S. Justice Department to root out corruption in the union.

The Independent Review Board, which reports to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, must still effectively approve the sanctions against the Slawsons. A three-member panel of Teamsters leaders from outside Minnesota held a hearing in February on the board’s charges against the Slawsons.

“Predictably, the [Teamsters] panel rubber-stamped the results,” Brian Toder, the Slawsons’ attorney, said in a statement. He added that the panel’s “blow by blow findings generally defy logic.”

The entire matter “will soon be appealed to a real court, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, where the Slawsons fully expect due process of law,” as well as “vindication,” Toder wrote.

The internal panel of Teamsters officials recently issued a report recommending that both Slawsons be barred from membership in the union for 10 years, in addition to a lifetime ban on holding any office or employment with Local 120 and the union generally.

They also would be banned from associating with Teamsters members, but would retain their pension, health care and retirement benefits.

The findings against the Slawsons do not constitute U.S. criminal or civil proceedings. But the Independent Review Board’s conclusions are as a matter of course passed on to the U.S. Justice and Labor departments to determine if civil or criminal proceedings are warranted. The board grew out of a 1989 consent decree the Teamsters signed with the Justice Department to avoid racketeering charges.

The Teamsters panel that reviewed the Slawson case proposed that Slawson Sr. be fined $159,000, partly due to $68,100 in “improper stipends” he got from the Teamsters Club, a Fargo, N.D., bar owned by Local 120.

The fine would also cover $90,000 Slawson is accused of embezzling in the form of a finder’s fee to a family friend in conjunction with the construction of a new union hall in Blaine.

Todd Chester, who is also the father of one of Slawson Sr.’s grandchildren, received the $90,000 fee from the contractor for the hall, money improperly “diverted” from Local 120, the panel’s report said, echoing the Independent Review Board’s findings.

“Astonishingly, Slawson Sr. was charged with embezzlement because the construction company that built Local 120’s building paid Todd Chester a finder’s fee of $90,000, yet there was no evidence this was paid from Local 120 funds,” Slawson’s lawyer said in a statement.

The Teamsters panel concluded that Slawson Jr. should be fined $72,700, the amount of improper stipends he allegedly got from the Fargo bar. Slawson Sr. and Slawson Jr. also would be fined $966 and $377, respectively, for charges on their union credit cards that allegedly weren’t for union purposes.

The bar stipends were not disclosed to Local 120’s members. But the Slawsons have argued that the stipends were approved by the Teamsters Club’s own bar and gaming board and, therefore, were not embezzled.

The panel also recommends that Chester should be fined $235,761 for embezzlement alleged to have occurred while he was managing the Fargo bar. That $235,761 represents the revenue from booze and beer that went missing during Chester’s tenure at the bar, the panel concluded. Chester could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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  • About Local 120

    Headquarters: Blaine

    Members: Over 11,000, particularly truck drivers and warehouse workers

    Regional offices: Fargo, N.D.; Dubuque, Iowa; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Mankato

    Status: In trusteeship, run by the international union.

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