A top Teamsters executive and key ally of union president James Hoffa Jr. was suspended for two years for accepting gifts, including tickets to a Playboy Super Bowl Party, from employers and other corruption charges.
The union's independent review board suspended Rome Aloise, an international vice president, leader of the California Joint Council 7, and head of Local 853, for two years in connection to numerous corruption allegations. The sentence will prohibit Aloise—who attempted to crowdfund his legal defense—from collecting on the $383,462 compensation package he earned from all three positions, but is more lenient than the lifetime ban recommended by Independent Investigations Officer Joseph E. diGenova.
The investigator said Aloise was guilty of negotiating "sham" contracts after receiving gifts from companies and that he abused his position to elect key allies and suppress votes for his opponents. He said a lifetime ban on Aloise and severe punishments for allies who contributed to his actions were necessary to safeguard the integrity of the union.
"His actions established that despite full knowledge of the legal restrictions on his conduct, Aloise, a powerful union official, unhesitatingly engaged in willful and knowing violations when such misconduct furthered his personal goals," diGenova wrote in a November memo. "Aloise has repeatedly shown his contempt for all legal restraints on his conduct. The only way to ensure Aloise's non-involvement in IBT affairs is through an associational ban where both he and those IBT employees and officers who have knowing contacts with him can be held accountable."
Aloise did not respond to an email seeking comment.
In October, Judge Barbara S. Jones, the union's Independent Review Officer, found Aloise guilty of abusing his position to advance his personal interests, both financial and within the union hierarchy. Judge Jones, who previously criticized Teamsters leadership for improperly dismissing charges against an Aloise ally, ruled that the Teamster honcho "brought reproach on the union" for his actions, though she ultimately cleared him of improperly interfering with another local's election. She pointed to his procurement of passes to the Playboy Party for a fellow union official, as well as the hiring of an out-of-work cousin as evidence that Aloise jeopardized union interests for his personal benefit.
"Aloise's bluster may have been just that, but it does negate the fact that he actively sought a favor from an employer," Jones wrote in the October ruling. "He put his work on behalf of his members and future members on par with a personal favor. This situation, while lacking the patina of organized crime or overt corruption, falls squarely within the ambit of conflicts of interest."
Leaders in the union reform movement applauded the independent investigations, but said punishing Aloise would not solve the problems of union corruption. Ken Paff, a founding member of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, said that the roots of corruption go deeper than Aloise. He says corruption starts with corporate culture where "they are buying and selling people all the time," which is what unions must guard against. He said the Hoffa administration has not done anything to protect against this mentality and fears that the two-year ban will not be enough to prevent corruption charges from re-emerging in the future.
"The fact is the Hoffa administration is too [inclined] to say ‘too bad you got caught' … they don't take the attitude that someone who does something wrong is betraying the union," Paff said. "It is difficult, if not impossible, to clean up an institution by taking bad apples and throwing them out. They can just replace them with other bad apples. We feel best way forward is to convince members to … change the culture."
A Teamsters spokeswoman declined comment on the suspension, as well as on the judicial process.