Ken Hall Obstruction Case Heads to Court

In an escalation of the charges against Ken Hall for obstructing investigations into corruption, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara has filed court papers denouncing the Hoffa-Hall administration’s actions as “unprecedented and dangerous.”


Bharara is asking Federal Judge Loretta Preska to order the International Union to turn over 17,334 emails and documents that have been withheld from corruption investigators and to reaffirm that the IBT does not have the right to suppress evidence relevant to corruption investigations by the Independent Investigations Officer (IIO).

As the official in charge of IBT records, Hall is responsible for withholding the subpoenaed emails and documents and obstructing the corruption investigation. That’s why Hall has been hit by IIO charges, and not Hoffa (at least, not yet).

October Surprise?

The Hoffa-Hall administration filed court papers of their own, accusing the Independent Investigations Officer (IIO) of launching a “nuclear missile” in a “surprise attack” that “interferes with the ongoing election.”

Speaking to the press, Hoffa-Hall spokesman Bret Caldwell denounced the charges against Hall as “baseless, without merit and politically motivated,” and accused Independent Investigations Officer Joseph diGenova of trying “to interfere with the Teamsters national election” against the Hoffa-Hall slate.

Hoffa Hired DiGenova

Caldwell gives no explanation of what diGenova’s motive would be—and for good reason: there is none. DiGenova was appointed by Hoffa himself and the two of them have worked together for nearly two decades.

DiGenova’s relationship with Hoffa goes back to 1997 when they collaborated as part of a Congressional investigation into the 1996 Teamster election. DiGenova served as special counsel to that investigation and prepped multiple Hoffa campaign operatives who testified in the hearings.

Following Hoffa’s election, Hoffa personally appointed DiGenova to the Independent Review Board (IRB). All of this is laid out by diGenova in this interview with the D.C. Bar. DiGenova became the Independent Investigations Officer when the IRB was phased out and IIO was created earlier this year.

But now that DiGenova is pursuing corruption investigations that implicate Hoffa and Hall themselves, they suddenly claim he is “politically motivated.” That dog won't hunt.

Hoffa Turns on Corruption Officers

This is not the first time that Hoffa has turned against a corruption officer that he appointed.

Hoffa appointed former federal prosecutor Ed Stier to direct the Project RISE anti-corruption task force.

But when Stier's inquiries into corruption and organized crime influence got too close to Hoffa's running mate John Coli, Hoffa shut down the investigation.

Stier resigned in disgust in 2004, saying when it comes to rooting out corruption, "The problem is Hoffa."

Corruption & Ken Hall Charges

The real facts behind the obstruction charges are straight-forward and well-summarized by U.S. Attorney Bharara’s brief, which states:

“The IIO is investigating the conduct of a number of high-ranking Union officials and employees, including Ken Hall, General Secretary-Treasurer of the Union, William C. Smith III, Executive Assistant to the General President, Nicole Brener-Schmitz, formerly the IBT’s Political Director, and John Slatery, the IBT Benefits Department Director. Generally, these investigations concern broad practices of Union officers and employees receiving payments and gifts from employers, vendors, and others doing business with the Union. This includes the awarding of contracts for a Union fund in 2013, on which Hall, Smith, and other high ranking Union officials were Trustees, to a company represented by a facilitator, Charles Bertucio, who had close personal relationships with several high ranking Union officials; payments and the giving of things of value to high ranking Union officials, by vendors, their agents, employers and others doing business with the Union or its funds, and allegations of widespread financial wrongdoing by Brener-Schmitz that was known within the Union and tolerated by senior officials.” (Page 2 of USA Memorandum of Law)

“The IBT’s interference and hindrance of the IIO’s work for the past six months has substantially interfered with his ability to perform his duties. It has occurred when the administration was on notice that the conduct of its top officers and employees were under investigation. It has also occurred during an election year.” (Page 9 of USA Memorandum of Law)

 “To allow the Union and its employees under investigation to determine what records the IIO can examine is to guarantee an ineffective, Union-controlled IIO.” (Page 10 of USA Memorandum of Law)

The stakes are high and every Teamster who cares about eliminating corruption from our union should follow this case carefully. 

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