Coli is best known for his prominent role in the scandal that led Hoffa’s anti-corruption czar Ed Stier to resign last year, along with the entire staff of Project RISE, Hoffa’s anti-corruption program. Coli was accused of using his influence in the General President’s office to shut down Stier’s investigations into organized crime influence and corruption in Chicago. Hoffa pulled the plug on Stier’s investigations—and Stier resigned in protest—before these allegations against Coli could be proven. But here is what is definitely known about Hoffa’s newest running mate.
Coli is the head of the powerful Chicago Joint Council and of Local 727. He inherited the leadership of Local 727 in 1992 after his father retired and his brother was removed from the Teamsters by the Independent Review Board (IRB). Coli’s father was a member of the Chicago mafia, according to the Stier Report of 2004, but he himself has never been identified as a mob associate.
Coli’s local is being investigated by the FBI, and a Grand Jury has issued subpoenas regarding alleged kickbacks and fraud involving the members’ dental plan. A report by Stier details a scheme where money from the plan travels to an “insurer” owned by a Florida dentist, then to an account in Illinois, before a lesser amount is deposited in the dental service providers’ authorized account.
What It Means
Why would James Hoffa name this man to his slate, hoping to make him a top leader of the Teamsters Union? This is a man who inherited his power, is under FBI investigation, helped kill-off the Teamster anti-corruption program, and whose first love is the members’ money.
He is doing it because Coli is a Teamster power broker: he has personal influence in high places inside our union.
This is the same reason Hoffa put another Chicago power broker, Billy Hogan, on his slate ten years ago, until investigations of his operations got too hot. Eventually Hogan was removed from the union for trying to implement a sweetheart contract with a company that his family had an interest in.
This is the opposite of the way power should flow in our union. It should flow upward, from the members, stewards and local organizers. Leadership should be earned, not inherited or extorted. Leaders should be selected for their integrity and their ability to win strong contracts.
In 2006 Teamster members will have a choice between those two kinds of leadership.