BNA Daily Labor Report: Review Board Rejects IBT-BLE Plan for Penalty on Financial Misconduct Charges

December 17, 2007: The Independent Review Board Dec. 13 rejected an agreement between International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers President Don Hahs for disciplinary action against Hahs on charges of financial misconduct.

John J. Cronin, Jr., administrator of the IRB, the court-supervised panel that oversees anticorruption efforts at the Teamsters, told BNA late Dec. 13 that the review board had rejected the plan as insufficient, but did not elaborate. However, Cronin said board members were clearly disappointed that Hoffa had not followed the board's Sept. 13 recommendation that he convene an internal union panel to hear evidence against Hahs, and recommend its own disciplinary action.

Instead of convening the internal union panel, Hoffa reached an agreement with Hahs in which Hahs agreed to accept a six-month suspension from union office and to pay restitution for improper expenses charged to the BLE treasury between 2004 and 2006, IBT spokesman Galen Munroe said Dec. 13. The plan was submitted to the IRB for its approval around Dec. 1, Munroe said.

In its Sept. 13 investigative report and recommendation, the board charged that Hahs caused the Cleveland-based BLE--which merged with the Teamsters in 2004-- to purchase professional basketball tickets for his own personal use, and that Hahs improperly charged his wife's travel expenses to the union (184 DLR A-5, 9/24/07 ). The report characterized these expenditures, which totaled about $57,000, as "embezzling union funds."

Cronin said he was unaware of the full terms of Hoffa-Hahs agreement, other than that Hahs would return to union office at end of the six-month suspension, and that the amount of the restitution would total approximately $40,000.

John Bentley, a spokesman for BLE, told BNA Dec. 13 that the Hoffa-Hahs agreement went into effect Dec. 1, and that Hahs is suspended without pay until May 31, 2008.

"In accordance with an agreement reached with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, National President D.M. Hahs has agreed to accept a six-month suspension," the union said in a statement.

"In accordance with [BLE's] Section 8(a)-National Division Rules, E. [Edward] W. Rodzwicz will assume the duties of and serve as National President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers," according to the BLE statement.

Bentley declined further comment.

Independent Review Board

The next step in the case is up to IBT and BLE, Cronin told BNA. The review board is not empowered to order the union to impose any specific remedy, he said, but does have broad authority to accept or reject any disciplinary action taken by the union.

The three-member board--made up of former Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti, former U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova, and former FBI Director William H. Webster--does have the power to impose punishment on its own, Cronin said, but this step is rarely taken and is subject to approval by Judge Loretta A. Preska of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

BLE comes under the jurisdiction of the board, which was established in a 1989 consent decree settling corruption charges brought by the government against IBT, because of the Jan. 1, 2004, merger of the rail union with the Teamsters (235 DLR A-11, 12/8/03 ), according to the board's Sept. 13 investigative report. The merger established the 59,000-member BLE as a division within IBT's Rail Conference.

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