A high-ranking member of the Teamsters who earned more than $300,000 last year is seeking donations from the rank and file to defend himself in a corruption probe launched by the union.
Rome Aloise, an international vice president and key West Coast ally of embattled union President James Hoffa Jr., is being investigated by the union's three-member Independent Review Board on charges of corruption that include taking gifts from employers and rigging union votes. Although the case is a civil, rather than legal or criminal matter, Aloise has turned to crowdfunding to pay for the legal advice he is receiving.
"Donations to The Rome Aloise Legal Defense Fund are to pay for the costs of defense related to any charges brought against Rome Aloise related to his conduct as an officer or representative of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), Teamsters Local 853, Teamsters Joint Council No. 7, and/or any Teamster-affiliated employee benefit trust fund," the website defendrome.com says.
Aloise and his allies have high ambitions for the crowdfunding effort. The website informs readers that contributions to the fund are capped at $14,000 and that "any excess money will go to registered charity, not to Rome or any other individual." Aloise has denied any wrongdoing in the past.
He did not return Washington Free Beacon request for comment about how much money the fundraising effort has netted, nor did he provide a response to the allegations against him.
Aloise is a major player in the Teamsters hierarchy. As leader of the Teamsters Joint Council 7, he represents more than 100,000 workers in California. He drew three salaries from the union totaling $383, 462 in total compensation for his work as an international vice president ($207,274), leader of the California Joint Council 7 ($25,984), and head of Local 853 ($150,204).
The union's Investigative Review Board released a 122-page report in February detailing a slew of corruption charges that involved his role as a negotiator and union official.
The board found that Aloise acted against the interests of his members by giving favorable contracts to companies that offered him perks. The charges say that he used his position as head of Local 853 to enter into "collusive, sham collective bargaining agreements" dating back to 2004 and that he abused his privilege as a labor leader.
"You requested and received things of value from Southern Wine and Spirits," the charges say. "These things of value were six admissions to a Playboy Super Bowl Party for another Teamster official and his family and friends, a job for your cousin and the retention of your cousin in his job after the employer determined he was not performing as required."
Investigators also say that he meddled in internal election procedures to advance his allies within the union. They alleged that Aloise ignored campaign violations by his preferred candidates and even aided their "wrongdoing" when they acted in defiance of settled rules. He is also accused of "using union resources to support a candidate and subvert her opponents" in one local election. He also punished opponents in the past.
"In the 2011 International election, Aloise filed internal union charges at Local 853 against a member who was a political opponent, alleging that he brought reproach upon the union when he accused Aloise of wrongdoing," the report says. "That misconduct was a foreshadowing of Aloise's conduct here. […] He aggravated the violation in illegally using union resources he was a steward over for his personal political goal."
Aloise has been a key ally of President James Hoffa, Jr., who narrowly won reelection in November against an insurgent reform movement that has swelled in the ranks in recent years. Despite Aloise's powerful position in the union, Hoffa approved the charges against him in February.
Reformers within the Teamster movement were not surprised to hear that Aloise had been caught up in the investigation. Ken Paff, a founding member of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, said that the "charges very serious and run the gamut of labor crimes." He said that he is troubled by the allegations and that they point to a culture of corruption that has plagued the union in recent years.
"If you're going to have a big organization you're going to attract some bad apples. The question is: When you find a bad apple do you promote it or throw it away? With Aloise they promoted him, they rallied around him," Paff said. "We're hoping that this investigation goes beyond Aloise and looks into a web of corruption."