December 16, 1997

Thank you for calling Local 225's "Union Issues" Hotline.

The Local is encouraged, after Day One of the trusteeship hearing. Monday's testimony focused primarily on the Local's spending practices. As you'll recall in the Trusteeship Complaint, the General Executive Board Attorney charged that too much money has been spent on meals.

The Inspector General's accountant testified, there should be a limit set on the number of meals a Local can expense. Once that limit is set, that's it. If an officer works a 12-hour day and conducts business during breakfast, lunch and dinner, the I-G feels the Local should not be allowed to expense three meals.

It appeared that the G-E-B Attorney feels he should decide how much should be spent on meals, in connection with keeping your union strong.

Hearing officer Peter Vaira commented that he was not familiar with spending limits being put on any union and asked the G-E-B Attorney's office to research the matter and submit their findings for his review.

Questioned further, the I-G accountant couldn't specify what he feels is a reasonable number of meals to expense. But, the G-E-B Attorney did say he'd prefer each officer to have an allowance, which would include his expenses for meals.

The accountant did not disagree that a 200-dollar a week allowance would be reasonable. A 200-dollar a week allowance would amount to 10-thousand-400 dollars spent per officer each year-- or about 52-thousand dollars. That led the Local's attorney to conclude that it wasn't the amount of money Local 225 spent that the G-E-B Attorney's office objected to, it was the way it was dispensed -- through credit cards. The accountant agreed.

The I-G accountant also testified that the Local lost money this past year. The Local's attorney says the 2-25 accountant will prove that's not true.

Former Local 225 secretary Jenell Totani was the G-E-B Attorney's second witness. Her testimony disputed a recent Chicago Tribune report that portrayed her as an unskilled, unqualified employee, hired only because of her romantic relationship with business manager John Galioto.

Totani testified that she had previous office experience in a very large corporation and is computer-literate. No one, besides the Trib, has ever disputed that Totani performed her secretarial duties extremely well. In fact, she testified, she felt she was over-qualified for the Local 225 position.

In the Local attorney's opinion, Totani's testimony added no muscle to the G-E-B Attorney's charge of financial malpractice at Local 225. And the hearing officer observed animosity between Galioto and Totani, noting that it could give her a motive to be untruthful.

Her strongest accusation was that the Local spent $75 to upgrade her airline ticket to a union convention to first class.

According to 2-25's attorney, the Local had not paid for Totani's coach class ticket, which was a significantly larger amount.

She also was asked what she knew about the incident involving former Executive Board member Mary Williams. As you'll recall, Williams charges that she was offered a bribe to step down from the E-Board. And, she says, she was given a literacy test, as punishment for raising the matter during a Board meeting.

Totani testified that Galioto told her he d been advised that Williams could not read well. She says he felt Williams should be given a literacy test -- but that he didn't want to administer it himself, because of their earlier disagreement.

Totani said Galioto didn't think someone illiterate should be on the Board. She testified, he felt it wasn't fair to the rank and file members, who count on their Board members to know and interpret the LIUNA Constitution and other union documents.

Tuesday, that issue -- which triggered a charge of undemocratic practices -- was a focal point, as Mary Williams took the witness stand.

We'll have that update tomorrow afternoon. Until then, have a great day!

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