Former Teamster leaders go into the bar business

MIke Hughlett
Star Tribune
February 18, 2013

Two top former leaders of Teamsters Local 120 who face the possibility of lifetime banishment from the union on corruption charges have bought a bar in northern Anoka County.

Brad Slawson Sr. and Brad Slawson Jr. recently purchased Route 65 Pub & Grub in East Bethel. Since November, the Slawsons have been on unpaid leave from Local 120, one of the largest Minnesota-based Teamster locals with over 11,000 members in several industries, particularly truck driving and warehousing.

The Slawsons are challenging the charges, levied by a joint government/Teamsters oversight board. “As far as the bar goes, we bought it so we could survive while we fight the Teamsters,” said Brad Slawson Jr., Local 120’s former president and second-in-command.

“It’s a good bar with good clientele and good prices, a place I can employ myself in my dispute with my former employer,” Slawson Jr. said. The Slawsons got their liquor license for the bar earlier this month.

Blaine-based Local 120 was put in emergency trusteeship and taken over by the international union in November after an investigation by the Teamsters Independent Review Board (IRB), which was created 20 years ago at the behest of the U.S. Justice Department to root out corruption.

The review board alleged “financial malpractice” by the Slawsons, including in the construction of a union hall in Blaine and the operation of the Teamsters Club, a Local 120-owned bar in Fargo, N.D. Slawson Jr. and Slawson Sr. respectively got $72,700 and $68,100 in stipends as members of the Teamster Club’s board.

But the IRB concluded that the stipends were not authorized and not disclosed to Local 120’s executive board. It recommended that the Teamsters charge each of the Slawsons with embezzlement, partly due to the bar stipends.

Later this month, the Slawsons face a hearing on the charges before a three-member panel of Teamster officials from outside of Minnesota. At maximum, they could be booted from the union and forced to repay tens of thousands of dollars.

The Slawsons say they’re the targets of a “witch hunt” by the Teamsters because in 2010 they stopped supporting the union’s top leader, James P. Hoffa. “It’s all a lie,” Slawson Jr. said of the IRB investigation and ensuing Teamster charges. “They were successful in making up so many lies, it’s hard for people to believe it’s not a lie.”

The Slawsons’ purchase of Route 65 Pub & Grub includes the business only, not real estate. It comes after a December fundraiser for the Slawsons at another northern Anoka County bar — Mac & Chester’s SRO — aimed at raising money for their legal defense.

Todd Chester, a Slawson family friend who once managed the Teamster Club in Fargo, co-owns Mac & Chester’s. As a former Teamster member, he has been accused by the IRB of embezzlement involving missing booze from the Teamster Club.

Patrons paid $50 each to attend the Slawson benefit at Mac & Chesters. “One hundred percent of the money from the benefit went to our attorney,” Slawson Jr. said.

With the Slawsons’ ownership of Route 65 Pub & Grub, the Blaine Youth Hockey Association is no longer a charitable gambling vendor at the bar, a move made to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. Slawson Jr. is vice president of that group, and his wife is its charitable gambling manager.

Route 65 Pub & Grub, which Chester also once managed, and Mac & Chester’s have been two of eight bars used by the Blaine Youth Hockey Association to raise money, state records show.

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