Sunday, September 8, 2013

What's behind Eliseo Medina's Swift Departure from SEIU?

SEIU's Eliseo Medina
Eliseo Medina’s rapid exit from SEIU, announced several days ago, is prompting lots of head-scratching.

So, Tasty has penned a lengthier post that's worth a read, IMHO. It offers evidence that Medina's departure is likely tied to recent legal developments in the SEIU/Tyrone Freeman corruption scandal.

Why are people scratching their heads over Medina's exit from the Purple Palace?

First of all, consider the speed of Medina’s departure. Usually, when the head honchos resign, they announce their plans months in advance -- not three weeks beforehand. Plus, it was only 14 months ago that Medina began his four-year term as SEIU’s Secretary-Treasurer. So why is he ditching a fat paycheck that's guaranteed until 2016?

Another clue: SEIU is deliberately downplaying Medina’s rapid exit, which is unusual. SEIU tries to build a celebrity-like ‘cult of personality’ around its top officials by having SEIU's website report their every move… as if they were Miley Cyrus twerking at the MTV awards. 

Ordinarily, if one of SEIU’s top dogs resigns, the Purple Palace puts on a massive show with gushy videos, teary-eyed tributes, and exploding purple confetti machines. In this case, however, SEIU has deliberately buried the news. Medina's retirement didn't even make SEIU's homepage and is noted in just a single press release that’s buried far from easy viewing.

Next, consider Medina's totally implausible explanation for why he’s jumping the Purple Ship. According to Medina, he’s leaving SEIU so he can “now focus solely on fighting for commonsense immigration reform.” But that’s ALL he’s been doing at SEIU for the past few years!

So what’s really going on?

Well, Tasty did some digging… and believes that Medina is likely being forced from office due to recent developments in the SEIU corruption scandal involving Tyrone Freeman. (Freeman, of course, was famously appointed to his position by SEIU President Emeritus Andy Stern.)

Here’s why.

First, Medina is directly implicated in the SEIU corruption scandal. Tasty earlier published portions of sworn testimony by SEIU staffer Jim Philliou in which Philliou testified that he told Medina's office about Freeman’s corruption a FULL SEVEN YEARS before the Los Angeles Times busted Freeman in 2008.

During those seven long years, Medina knew that Freeman was stealing from SEIU's members. But Medina did absolutely nothing  even as Freeman drained more than $12.5 million from SEIU’s members. 

That's not the response you'd expect your union's Secretary-Treasurer, right?

Secondly, new court records indicate that Freeman and his attorneys are frantically scrambling to avoid a multi-year jail term. So Freeman has begun throwing his purple accomplices under the bus in an effort to lighten his sentence. More on this below.

Thirdly, consider the timing. Freeman’s sentencing has been scheduled for September 30, just one day before Eliseo Medina scampers out of the Purple Palace’s back door. Just days ago, a federal judge postponed Freeman’s sentencing until October 7 at 2:00pm, which will allow Medina more time to get out of Dodge.

So... who is Freeman throwing under the bus? They include multiple SEIU officials and even a former California State Senator.

Here's what's happening.

U.S. prosecutors and Freeman's attorneys are locked in a battle over Freeman's upcoming sentencing. In the run-up to the sentencing, the U.S. Probation Office has prepared a "pre-sentencing" report that makes recommendations to the federal judge about the length of Freeman's jail term as well as Freeman’s financial penalties and the conditions of his eventual probation once he exits the Big House.

Both sides -- prosecutors and defense -- are now submitting dueling legal briefs to the judge about the pre-sentencing report. This's where Freeman has begun throwing his purple buddies under the bus.

Here’s one example.

A photo of the Grand Havana Room from its website
Remember the Grand Havana Room? That's the members-only cigar club and exclusive restaurant in Beverly Hills that figured prominently in the Los Angeles Times's initial coverage of SEIU’s crime spree.

The Times calls it “Hollywood's most exclusive new hideaway, a hybrid of the Ivy League secret society and the Prohibition-era speak-easy.” Its members include Robert De Niro, Mel Gibson, Jack Nicholson and Arnold Schwarzenegger… and Tyrone Freeman, until he was busted.

At the cigar club, Freeman spent piles of SEIU members’ dues money on expensive cigars, $175 glasses of cognac, and $1,000 meals for three people. According to court records, Freeman used SEIU’s credit card to pay a $9,000 initiation fee to get his own personal humidor at the club so he could store all the cigars that he bought with workers’ money.

Another photo from website
SEIU also paid the ongoing membership and rental costs for Freeman’s humidor: $800 a month. That’s more than many people pay for an apartment… especially the low-wage homecare workers whom Freeman was supposed to represent. These SEIU members earn only $9 an hour.  

Well, it turns out that the U.S. Probation Office has cited Freeman's orgies of corruption at the cigar club in crafting its recommended prison term. 

In response, Freeman is basically telling the judge, 'Hey, it wasn't so bad. Sometimes I even met with SEIU officials and did SEIU business at the cigar club.'

Here's what Freeman's attorneys wrote in a recent brief to the judge:

the investigative records contain ample evidence that these expenses were not personal, but rather involved the costs associated with business and political meetings. For example, records show that Mr. Freeman met with Kevin Murray, a former State Senator and advisor to the Local Union, at the Grand Havana Room. See Exhibit A. The records also reflect that Mr. Freeman met with union vendors, such as Carl Dickerson, and union staff members at the Grand Havana Room. See Exhibits B & C. Because expenses like these are appropriate and business-related, they cannot be treated as losses under the Guidelines.

Freeman's attorneys then attach records that expose his buddies for joining Freeman's gluttonous episodes at the cigar club.

For example, here's one email that outs a bunch of SEIU's top staffers. With a subject line of “Time with President Freeman,” the email invites the staffers at SEIU Local 6434 to join “President Freeman” from 4-7pm at the Grand Havana Room in Beverly Hills. The email indicates Freeman held these worker-funded happy hours at the Cigar Club every Friday.

Plus, the emails show how Freeman used the union-funded happy hour to extract $50 contributions to SEIU’s political fund, called “COPE.” Sounds highly illegal.

Multiple SEIU officials are implicated in this scandal, including Matthew Maldonado, Freeman's top aide; Will Hirst, a close aide to Freeman; Tom Csekey, the current Membership Director of SEIU Local 6434; Wendy Duchen, the current Director of Regions 1 and 4 for Local 6434; Benigno Delgado; Yvonne Olivares; Louis Jamerson; and others.
And here's a second record that outs former State Senator Kevin Murray, whom "President Freeman" hired as a consultant. 

Hmmm... did you happen to notice the time of Freeman's supposed "business meeting" with Murray? 1:30am to 3:00am! Sounds like they were doing some serious business at the cigar club.

Of course, Freeman's lame effort to exonerate himself is ridiculous. The fact that other people shared in the fruits of his corruption is no excuse.

In the days ahead, Tasty plans to post more info about what Freeman did inside the club... including the names of other SEIU officials who joined Freeman in his orgiastic escapades at the Beverly Hills club.

This new evidence proves that substantial numbers of SEIU's officials joined in Freeman's corruption at the cigar club.

To an outside observer, what's stunning is the total lack of class consciousness among these many SEIU officials. How can you collect dues from hardworking $9-an-hour homecare workers and then use workers' money to buy $175 glasses of cognac in one of Los Angeles's most exclusive private clubs filled with multi-millionaire corporate executives? WTF!! Even a fourth grader would have better ethical judgment than the fatcat plutocrats who run SEIU.

What's clear is this: All of these SEIU officials should go to jail. And SEIU's pervasive corruption must be addressed as workers rebuild the U.S. labor movement.