''Hoffa Failed That Test''

''Hoffa Failed That Test''

Copyright 2004, Traffic World, Inc.

The Teamsters union''s effort to police itself appears to be collapsing amid the resignation of its top in-house cop and charges that union President James P. "Jimmy" Hoffa is ambivalent to cleaning up the IBT.

Internal political foes are piling on Hoffa in the wake of the resignation of well-known mob-buster Edwin Stier, arguing the action is evidence Hoffa is not serious about cleaning up the 1.4 million-member IBT.

Stier, who earned his reputation as a federal prosecutor who busted several high-profile mob bosses in New Jersey in the 1970s, resigned his post as director of Hoffa''s internal anti-corruption program, Project RISE.

"I can no longer permit my presence in the union to act as an endorsement of [Hoffa''s] sincerity," Stier said in his resignation letter.

Stier''s letter accused Hoffa of undermining investigations into organized crime influence, corruption and misconduct that implicated his close associates - including investigations into conduct in Hoffa''s own office. Hoffa called those allegations "reckless and false."

The Teamsters for a Democratic Union, the reform wing of the union, is accusing Hoffa of orchestrating a cover-up of organized crime in Chicago, Stier said after preparing a detailed report on organized crime in the Teamsters in Chicago. Hoffa failed to act on the report. Also, according to Stier, the investigation was derailed by Hoffa''s office "on behalf of individuals whose interests were threatened" by the investigations.

Stier''s report on organized crime in the Chicago Teamsters never has been published. Stier informed the union''s general counsel that "a coordinated effort was underway to shut down (Project RISE''s) efforts ... and that the power of the union itself was being used to achieve that objective." But the pressure campaign to undermine the investigations continued, TDU said.

In defense of the Teamsters, Stier noted that crime in Chicago long predated the 101-year-old union and the Hoffa family.

"I can tell you that Chicago has the highest concentration that we observed of organized crime as it relates to the union of anyplace else. I think it''s a serious issue for the community as a whole," Stier told the Chicago Tribune. "So people shouldn''t focus on this as a union problem. It''s a Chicago problem."

In another IBT case, involving embezzlement in Houston, Stier says Hoffa refused to take action against Teamster Local 988 officials accused of embezzlement and other violations in what Stier called "a corruption case, the magnitude of which dwarfs any in recent years." Stier says Hoffa dragged his feet on the case until the Independent Review Board forced Hoffa''s hand by recommending a trusteeship.

"Based upon Jim Hoffa''s reaction to our report, in which we have made it clear that we have substantial reliable information that organized crime again threatens the union, I have become convinced that my continued efforts and those of our investigators to create an anti-corruption program for the Teamsters Union would be futile," Stier''s letter said.

Hoffa says he''s committed to ridding the union of organized crime. Since coming into power in 1997, Hoffa has placed more than 30 locals into trusteeship, the same tactic his predecessor, Ron Carey, used to end mob influence within locals.

"The Teamsters union regrets Stier''s decision to resign but rejects the reckless and false allegations he makes about our union''s commitment to fighting the influence of organized crime," Hoffa said in a statement.

"As Stier acknowledges himself, no labor union in the history of the United States has conducted as extensive an internal program to free itself of any remaining influence of organized crime as the IBT has under this administration."

Hoffa''s internal political foes within the union pounced on the Stier resignation as evidence that Hoffa is not serious about ending mob ties.

"Hoffa wanted Stier for PR purposes but when Project RISE wanted to act against corruption that struck close to home, Hoffa pulled the plug," said Tom Leedham, secretary-treasurer of Oregon Local 206, who lost to Hoffa in the 2001 election for IBT president.

"We said all along that the test of Project RISE or any anti-corruption program was whether the general president would act against corruption even when that corruption implicates top officials or political associates," Leedham said. "Hoffa failed that test."

Stier''s resignation is a blow to Hoffa''s attempt to paint himself as a reform-minded president capable of running a clean union. Stier''s letter reveals the immense cost of Project RISE - $15 million - a program launched with great fanfare in 1999 as Hoffa''s alternative to government oversight of the union.

The union has been under an expensive consent decree with the federal government since 1988. Under terms of that agreement, the IBT allows officials from the departments of Labor and Justice day-to-day oversight of the union. The arrangement has cost the union more than $120 million.

In the wake of Stier''s investigation, the issues raised in Project RISE''s investigative reports are being referred to the IRB and the Department of Labor - except the investigation into conduct within the General President''s office, which will be handled by a lawyer selected by Hoffa.

"Of all the matters discussed in our report this is the one that most requires referral to the IRB," Stier says. "Jim Hoffa will likely be a witness as will others with whom he has had long-standing close personal relationships."

The IRB was established pursuant to the Teamsters union''s 1988 racketeering consent order. The three IRB members are appointed jointly by the union leadership and the Justice Department, and have the power to hold hearings regarding union corruption and remove officials found to be corrupt.