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Suspended Teamsters Official Hit With New Corruption Claims

Feb. 20, 2020, 4:34 PM

A California union official seen as a possible candidate for president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is facing potential charges of racketeering and intimidation by the union’s oversight officers.

The union’s Independent Investigations Officer Joseph E. diGenova said in a 31-page memorandum that International Vice President Rome Aloise engaged in “methodical and Machiavellian steps” to maintain his grip over the Teamsters while serving a two-year suspension for accepting payoffs during contract negotiations.

Although diGenova’s memo doesn’t represent a formal conviction of Aloise, it sets the stage for his expulsion from the union and could even lead to an associational ban that would bar him from contacting any Teamsters members—an enormous rebuke to an ally of President James P. Hoffa seen as a potential future leader of the 1.4-million member union.

The Feb. 14 memo came just days before the union emerged from federal oversight, a decades-long effort to root out organized crime from U.S. labor unions. Two independent oversight officers remain in place as part of the union’s agreement with prosecutors, although the Teamsters can now begin appointing the officers without government approval.

DiGenova’s memo said Aloise intimidated union members, ignored facets of his suspension, and committed an act of racketeering by threatening a charitable organization with financial harm.

The case now moves to the Teamsters International Executive Board for a hearing. It then will go before the union’s Independent Review Officer Barbara S. Jones, a retired federal judge, who can accept or reject the board’s findings and determine what sanctions, if any, to levy against Aloise.

Aloise maintained his innocence in a statement posted to his website, calling the proposed charges and the process behind them an “insidious and incessant violation of my rights as an individual and Union member.”

“Obviously, I am devastated by this news and feel persecuted by the process, which is biased, unfair, uses unsubstantiated information and is based on an alleged ‘investigation’ brought on by my political opponents,” Aloise said in the statement.

The IIO’s office and a Teamsters spokeswoman both declined to comment on the memorandum.

Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a “grassroots” reform movement within the Teamsters, first published the memo.

Threats of Financial Harm

The racketeering charge stems from an April 2019 charitable function where Aloise is said to have threatened a labor-related nonprofit with financial harm if it didn’t revoke an honorary award going to a Teamsters officer.

Aloise allegedly wanted to embarrass the award recipient, Joint Council 28 President Rick Hicks, after he refused to allow his joint council office to be used for an event where Aloise would be present for fear of violating the suspension order.

The threats of financial ruin from Aloise led to the revocation of the award. It also likely led to a lower-than-anticipated turnout for the event, according to diGenova. The charity, Instituto Laboral de la Raza, supports immigrant workers’ rights and relies on the awards dinner for nearly half of its annual revenue.

State and federal law were likely broken by Aloise extorting a thing of value through threats, according to diGenova. A copy of his report was sent to the U.S. District Attorney for Southern New York’s office, who could bring a federal criminal charge or refer the matter elsewhere. No federal charge was filed when the Teamsters found Aloise guilty of misconduct in 2017.

“The conduct is particularly troubling because Aloise’s threats do not appear to have been motivated by simple political rivalry, but rather as a direct retaliation for good faith efforts to comply with the IRO’s order,” diGenova said in the memo.

‘A Stunning and Notorious Affront’

The memo also alleges that Aloise never abided by the spirit of his suspension but instead continued to influence union affairs through frequent communications with other members. He allegedly not only participated in collective bargaining but led several contract negotiations and organizing campaigns in what diGenova called a “stunning and notorious affront to the IRO discipline.”

The Local 853 president sent about 1,040 emails to colleagues at the local and hundreds more to members of another local and the IBT executive offices while suspended, according to diGenova.

Aloise mentioned in one email that he planned to meet with Hoffa to lobby him on negotiations with Uber and Lyft. Teamsters spokeswoman Kara Deniz said that such a meeting never took place.

Aloise also ran unopposed for his previous position of Local 853 principal officer in November 2019—more than a month before his suspension ended.

The International Executive Board has until mid-May to make a decision on the three proposed charges.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Wallender in Washington at awallender@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com; Karl Hardy at khardy@bloomberglaw.com

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