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SEIU-sent officials to probe complaints: Ex-labor leader's pay deal at issue

Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 1:17 a.m.

Background: SEIU Local 221 officials agreed to pay former president Sharon-Frances Moore a severance and hire her as a consultant after accepting her resignation this month.

What's happening: Officials from the international SEIU office have arrived in San Diego to investigate member complaints.

The future: The investigators will report to international union President Andrew Stern within 30 days.

International leaders of the union representing thousands of county government workers have arrived in San Diego to help sort out a dispute over management of the local group.

Andrew Stern, the international president of Service Employees International Union, appointed two personal representatives to investigate whether the local chapter wrongly paid former president Sharon-Frances Moore a six-figure severance and hired her as a consultant.

Local union officials said they welcome the investigation and help finding a new president. Moore cited personal reasons in resigning this month as president of SEIU Local 221.

Last week, the local's executive board named three members to manage the union on a day-to-day basis until a successor can be named, but some union members complained that the action violated the organization's rules.

In a Jan. 22 letter to local union officials from his Washington, D.C., headquarters, Stern said he was looking into the complaints and advised them to withhold any payments to Moore.

"I have directed my representatives to report to me within 30 days on the situation in Local 221," he wrote. "In the meantime, I counsel the Local 221 officers and executive board not to execute or implement the challenged payments or contract at this time."

Local 221 spokeswoman Melinda Battenberg said decisions regarding the severance and consulting agreement are internal union business that she cannot discuss publicly.

Specifically, rank-and-file members complained about a $107,000 severance package awarded to Moore and objected that she will keep working for the union as a consultant. Several people wrote to Stern to demand an investigation.

"The general membership of the Local 221 was unhappy before this meeting," SEIU member Denise Knobloch wrote. "When word becomes more public about these issues, I feel that many more people will pull away from the union."

Many of the same members previously had filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Labor claiming irregularities in the conduct and results of the July election of union officers.

That complaint is still under review by federal labor officials.

SEIU Local 221, which represents about 10,000 county employees and other workers, is a separate organization from the SEIU bargaining units that were voted out by Kaiser Permanente employees this month.

Jeff McDonald: (619) 293-1708

Posted by SEIU SMART at 3:40 PM, March 21, 2010


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