Local 16 taken over by national Iron Workers' parent acts in wake of embezzlement case

October 31, 1995|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,SUN STAFF

Iron Workers Local No. 16, which was embroiled several months ago in a $1.4 million embezzlement case, has been taken over by the national, which accused the local of being delinquent in making pension contributions and not handling its finances properly.

The International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers placed the Baltimore-based local under supervision on Oct. 10, according to a letter sent out to the local's 1,100 members, who work at construction sites in Maryland and surrounding states.

All local officers were initially dismissed, but then reinstated except for Russell P. Hatch, the financial secretary, according to James M. Shiflett, the local's business manager.

Efforts to reach Mr. Hatch yesterday were unsuccessful.

Even though the Iron Workers local will be supervised by national general organizer Carroll Allison, Mr. Shiflett downplayed the takeover's effect.

"They've been helpful to me," he said. "But other than that, it's business as normal."

Mr. Shiflett said the move was unrelated to the case earlier this year when two office workers in the union's health benefits plan were convicted in federal court of embezzling $1.4 million over 4 1/2 years.

"This would be completely separate," he said. "There's no indication that there's anything like that here."

However, there were very few details as to why the national union took the unusual action.

According to the letter sent to members, the financial officer of Local 16 did conduct the local's financial affairs in a "financially sound and proper manner." It also said the local was "delinquent" in paying pension contributions to the local and district council's plan.

Mr. Shiflett said he did not know how far behind the local was in its pension payments or what other the financial improprieties were.

"To be honest, I don't know," he said. "That sounds strange, but that wouldn't come under my realm."

Jake West, general president of the national union, declined comment, as did LeRoy E. Worley, general secretary, and James E. Cole, general treasurer.

It was the second time recently that an area local has been taken over by its national.

The Teamsters seized control of the Baltimore-based Teamsters Local 557 on Oct. 4, accusing the local president of accepting kickbacks and allowing an apartment in the union hall to be used by prostitutes.

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