UAW hires outside counsel to lead internal investigation

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Dennis Williams said the UAW’s current leadership “had absolutely no knowledge” of Holiefield’s alleged actions until the federal government approached the union. Photo credit: Michael Wayland

DETROIT — UAW President Dennis Williams said independent, outside counsel would lead an internal investigation into allegations that union officials were illegally funneled $ 1.2 million by Fiat Chrysler’s former labor chief.

Williams said the union “has cooperated fully” with the Department of Justice’s investigation and “continues to share information with the government.”

A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted former Fiat Chrysler labor-relations chief Alphons Iacobelli along with Monica Morgan, the widow of deceased UAW Vice President General Holiefield.

According to the indictment, Iacobeli funneled $ 1.2 million from the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center to Holiefield and Morgan between 2009 and 2014. The couple allegedly used that money to pay off a $ 262,000 mortgage and pay for designer clothing, jewelry, furniture and first-class airfare.

Williams said the UAW’s current leadership “had absolutely no knowledge” of Holiefield’s alleged actions until the federal government approached the union.

“We nevertheless take responsibility for not doing more to exert our influence over the governance policies of the NTC, which might have uncovered this corruption sooner,” Williams said in the statement.

Holiefield was the UAW’s lead negotiator during 2011 contract negotiations with Fiat Chrysler. Williams scoffed at the notion that the contract negotiations were tainted at all by Holiefield’s alleged actions.

“The collective bargaining agreement was not controlled by General Holiefield,” Williams said. “The 2011 collective bargaining agreement, which would have been the one negotiated during General Holiefield’s term, passed through many hands, including the UAW president, and the agreement was patterned after others at Ford and GM.”

While noting UAW dues do not go toward the NTC, Williams said the union, FCA and the NTC would implement a host of changes at the center “aimed at enhancing transparency and internal controls.”

The changes include an annual independent financial audit of the NTC, implementing a “budget review process” and formalizing credit card and conflict of interest policies.

The NTC will also be banned from donating to charities run by UAW officials, Williams said in the statement.

According to the indictment, a majority of operating funds spent by the Leave the Light On Foundation, a non-profit controlled by Holiefield dedicated to caregiver support, between 2009 and 2011 were paid to Morgan. It is alleged Iacobelli and Morgan used the charity as a way to conceal payments to Holiefield.

“The UAW has zero tolerance for corruption or wrongdoing of this kind at any level,” Williams said. The “abuses alleged in the indictment dishonored the union and the values we have upheld for more than 80 years.”

The indictments are hitting the UAW at an inopportune time. Workers at a Nissan Motor Co. assembly plant in Canton, Miss., next week are voting on whether to be represented by the UAW in what could the union’s first organizing win at an auto assembly plant in the south.

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