Teamsters Local 120 leadership under scrutiny

Teamsters Local 120, based in Blaine, is under heavy scrutiny and emergency trusteeship after an independent panel uncovered alleged acts of misconduct.

Local 120 secretary-treasurer Brad Slawson, Sr., and president Brad Slawson, Jr. are mentioned on numerous occasions in a 139-page report completed by the Independent Review Board (IRB), which is a three-person panel that was created after the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) signed a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department in 1989 to avoid racketeering charges that the Justice Department had brought forward in the RICO lawsuit case.

The independent IRB recommended Nov. 9 that Local 120 be placed in trusteeship. The Teamsters placed Local 120 under its emergency trusteeship Nov. 13.

According to the IRB report, Local 120 on June 20, 2007 received a contract proposal from Ryan Companies to construct the new Local 120 building in Blaine for $2,875,722. Just one month later, Slawson Sr. allegedly called for a telephone poll of the Local 120 Executive Board in which he promoted the hiring of a Blaine company called Stone Construction, which had just submitted a bid the day before.

An unknown source created an analysis of both proposals and said Ryan’s price was $119,264 above Stone Construction’s costs. The actual cost was about $3.2 million once subsequent change orders were approved without any action on this being taken at a Local 120 board meeting, according to the IRB report.

A friend of the Slawsons — Todd Chester — had asked them if Stone Construction could submit a bid. Chester was subsequently paid a $90,000 “finders fee,” according to the IRB report. The IRB report states that Stone Construction paid the finders fee, but it was included in Local 120’s costs for the building.

Slawson Sr. on Nov. 1, 2007 allegedly signed a guaranty for a $3,382,966 mortgage and construction loan, but Local 120 was made responsible for the repayment of the loan.

The IRB alleged that about $189,000 was inappropriately wired from Local 120’s “strike fund” to help with the down payment for construction of the building.

The review board also alleged that Slawson Sr. entered into a “sham working agreement” with American Pride in which it worked with him on preparing and filing Local 120’s loan application, served as the settlement agent when Local 120 purchased the land and closed on the loan, and was the disperser of funds to Stone Construction during the building process. The Local 120 board did not approve this hiring, the IRB states.

Local 120 in 2007 took over operations of a Teamsters bar in Fargo, N.D. that is open to the general public and includes charitable gambling. Without authorization from the Local 120 board, the board members of the bar, which included the Slawsons and some other executives of Local 120, began receiving monthly stipends in 2007.

According to the IRB report, the total amount of unauthorized stipends that were distributed totaled $335,832. Slawson Sr. and Slawson Jr. collected $72,700 and $68,100, respectively.

Chester was hired as a part-time consultant at the Fargo bar in March 2010 at an annual salary of $20,622. He held this post until August 2011. He also received health insurance, which was not available to the other non-union bar employees who worked full-time, according to the review board’s report.

The review board states that partly because of these expenses, Local 120 had to pay business-related expenses from its general fund because there was insufficient revenue to cover costs.

Chester is the father of one of Slawson Sr.’s grandchildren and Chester and Slawson Jr. have been friends for many years, the review board states. Slawson Jr. is the vice president on the Blaine Youth Hockey Association board of directors, which has pull-tab booths at two establishments where Chester has had ownership interest.

Blaine Youth Hockey Association Board President Gretchen Severin told ABC Newspapers that her understanding is this is an internal employment dispute between the Slawsons and Teamsters and not a matter for the hockey association’s consideration. The board had a regularly scheduled meeting Nov. 20, just one week after the news broke.

The review board also questioned why Local 120 spent $214,755 on tickets to Vikings, Twins, Wild and Gophers hockey games between 2007 and 2011 and why there were expenses charged to Local 120 for food and alcohol purchases.

Upcoming hearings on trusteeship

According to Local 120’s website, the IBT will hold a hearings beginning at 9 a.m. on both Dec. 17 and 18 at the Local 120’s building in Blaine. Bret Caldwell, spokesperson for the Teamsters, said this hearing is to determine the validity of the IRB’s recommendation that Local 120 be under the trusteeship of the Teamsters.

“Under normal circumstances, the hearing takes place before the establishment of a trusteeship,” Caldwell said. “In extenuating circumstances, such as those outlined in the IRB report, a decision is made to placed the local into trusteeship in order to ensure the financial integrity of the local (union) and the uninterrupted representation of its membership.”

After the hearings, the three-member IBT hearing board will have up to 60 days to make a recommendation to IBT General President James P. Hoffa on whether it believes the trusteeship is valid. Hoffa then has another 30 days to decide whether he agrees with the findings.

If the IBT review process determines that the trusteeship is valid, it could last up to 18 months. At this point, the trustee has full authority to make employment decisions.

At this point, both Slawsons are on unpaid leave, Caldwell said.

The IRB will hold separate hearings regarding the findings in its report. Information about when these hearings would take place was not available.

The IRB will determine with whom to share its findings. These findings could be referred to the U.S. Department of Labor or the U.S. Department of Justice, Caldwell said.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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