News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 5, 2014

Hearing debates future of union leadership

LIUNA officials may take more than a month to issue decision

TERRE HAUTE — Members of Laborers Local Union 204 packed the Chestnut Room of the Holiday Inn Wednesday morning for a hearing that ultimately will decide whether current local leadership remains — or changes.

The local is under an emergency international trusteeship, and the hearing was conducted to determine whether the trusteeship continues or authority is returned to local officials, said Terry Modesitt, attorney representing Chuck and Charlie Toth.  

No decision was made and the hearing was closed to the public. Laborers Local Union 204, located at 401 Poplar St., is part of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA).

Chuck Toth is the current business manager for Laborers 204, a position formerly held by his father, Charlie Toth, now retired.

It could be a month or more before international officials make a decision on whether to maintain the trusteeship or return control back to local officials, Modesitt said.

He attended the hearing and sat with his clients, the Toths.

His clients “want to see the trusteeship lifted,” Modesitt said. If an international trusteeship continues, at some point there would be an election of new local officers, and eventually local control would be returned, under new leadership.

There is no criminal investigation, Modesitt said. “They explicitly stated during the hearing they are not saying anybody did anything illegal, it’s just whether or not the union didn’t follow all of the international union’s rules as far as handling different things,” including financial matters, Modesitt said.

“They are not saying there is any missing money,” Modesitt said. “What they are saying is that there was some money that did not get deposited until a few months later.”

The money balanced, but wasn’t deposited in a timely manner, “is my understanding,” Modesitt said.

He said he and his clients attended the hearing without any advance information other than a letter posted by LIUNA on the door of Laborers Local 204. “We didn’t have copies of anything. We didn’t know who would testify or any of that,” Modesitt said after the hearing.

During the hearing, evidence was presented by a union investigator. The international had someone look into allegations, Modesitt said, but “there are no particular charges against any individuals at this time.”

“They did talk a little about advances on pay that had been granted over the years,” Modesitt said. “That had stopped.”

Those conducting the hearing included Terrence Healy, vice president and Great Lakes regional manager, and Stephanie McCarthy, associate general counsel out of Washington, D.C. Healy had no comment when the hearing concluded sometime after noon.

Information and evidence can still be submitted to the hearing panel.

Neither Chuck Toth nor Charlie Toth had any comment; they deferred to Modesitt, who said his role during the hearing was “to ask questions of different witnesses and make sure everything got brought out that needed to be brought out.”

Some union members indicated the meeting got heated at times. Modesitt said, “Maybe a little bit among some members, but nothing horrible. It was pretty civil.”

Union members who attended the hearing did not want to comment on what happened during the hearing.

When asked what brought on the LIUNA trusteeship, Modesitt said, “I probably better not comment on that.”

Laborers 204 has been placed under “emergency trusteeship” by its international union because of an “emergency situation” that required “immediate intervention,” according to a letter posted on the door of the local union late last month.

The emergency trusteeship was effective May 27.

Concerns outlined in the correspondence stated the following:

• “An investigation has revealed that since 2008, in excess of $12,000 in initiation fees and dues had gone missing, and that, upon discovery of the loss, the funds were paid back by the local union’s business manager, who was a field representative.

• “In addition, in order to pay back the missing funds, the business manager received more than $2,000 as an advance on his wages.” Federal law prohibits local unions from making loans higher than $2,000 to union officials.

• “It was also determined that numerous receipt books were missing and union documents were shredded in an attempt to conceal wrongdoing,” the letter stated.

Union officials, both local and international, have declined comment.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

 

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