Federal monitor accuses UAW of concealing misconduct probe
A monitor appointed by a federal judge in the wake of a United Auto Workers bribery and embezzlement scandal contends that the union has been uncooperative by withholding information on additional misconduct allegations.
The monitor, Neil Barofsky, made the assertion in his third report to Judge David Lawson in Detroit. Barofsky accused the union of concealing an investigation into the mishandling of cash by an assistant regional director of the UAW.
Barofsky alerted the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit, which investigated the original scandal. U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison told the union that it was violating a court order by concealing the information, and the UAW has been behaving properly since, Barofsky wrote.
But he wrote that the union was obstructing him.
“The union’s concealment of evidence of the misconduct of one of its leaders and its own investigation into that misconduct interfered with the monitor’s ability to carry out his work,” Barofsky wrote.
His assertions raise questions about whether the union has reformed itself as it has announced, and whether Ison’s office has begun further investigations. A spokeswoman for Ison declined to comment.
In a statement, the union said it’s committed to rebuilding trust and transforming the UAW’s culture. “We have proven that with a myriad of already implemented changes to policies and the creation of processes that ensure accountability,” the statement said.
The union, the statement said, would balance the need to make reforms with the mandate of bargaining for equitable contracts.
Barofsky’s report said the union also refused to give him summaries of oral interviews involving investigations as required by the court. The monitor has 19 investigations under way and has referred two cases to Ison’s office after having received tips from a UAW ethics hotline.
At a meeting with Ison on March 31, UAW President Ray Curry denied the union had violated the consent order that it had agreed to in court, the report said. Ison cautioned that the union faced potential government action and insisted that it cooperate with Barofsky. Curry committed to “do a total reset” with Barofsky and said he had replaced the UAW’s top lawyer and outside counsel.
Since then, Barofsky reported that important progress has been made. “The union should be commended for its reaction and response to the meeting with the U.S. Attorney,” Barofsky wrote.
The monitor found out about the probe into the regional director while interviewing a UAW employee in another investigation, Barofsky wrote.
Part of the bribery scandal that brought down two former UAW presidents involved spending union money on conferences. But Barofsky wrote that the union still doesn’t have sufficient financial controls in place to watch conference spending, which can run over $1 million for over 1,000 attendees.
The union, he wrote, doesn’t require conference budgets and largely leaves spending decisions up to executive board members or staff. Plus, there are no guidelines for how much can be spent at conferences or on individual categories such as food, beverages and entertainment.
Union officials have told Barofsky that expenses are consistent with past conferences and are appropriate for a union the size of the UAW. Plus, no policy prohibits them, the officials said, according to the report.
A financial officer’s conference in New Orleans had a $300,000 dinner reception for about 1,000 people, and another $19,200 dinner party for 80-to-100 people attending the conference, Barofsky reported.
Curry, appointed a year ago to replace retiring Rory Gamble to lead the nearly 400,000-member union, is running for election this fall. Union members in December decided to directly vote on their leaders instead of having them elected by delegates to a convention. Candidates for top offices will be nominated at a convention that begins on Monday in Detroit.
Under the old system, convention delegates were picked by local union offices. But the new slate of leaders was picked by the outgoing president, and seldom was there any serious opposition.
Barofsky wil oversee the election of the union’s 13-member International Executive Board, which includes the president, three vice presidents, secretary-treasurer and regional directors.
Barofsky was appointed last year as part of a settlement that avoided a government takeover of the union after the wide-ranging bribery and embezzlement scandal.
Eleven union officials and a late official’s spouse have pleaded guilty in the corruption probe since 2017, including the two presidents who served before Gamble, Gary Jones and Dennis Williams. Both were sentenced to prison.