SEIU Says Bosses Had Hands in the Till

     LAS VEGAS (CN) – Former officers of the Service Employees International Union Local 1107 swiped more than $47,000 just days after one lost his presidency in the 2013 local election, the SEIU claims in court.
     The union on Wednesday sued former Local 1107 Pres. Eleazar “Al” Martinez, former Financial Officer Birgit “Sam” Harris and former Chief of Staff Amber Lopez-Lasater, in Clark County Court.
     Martinez lost his bid for another term as Local 1107 president during the local’s June 2013 election. Two days after the election results were announced, Martinez authorized improper payments and benefits to Harris and Lopez-Lasater totaling $47,604.61, the union claims in the lawsuit.
     “SEIU Local 1107’s funds entrusted with its prior officers, Martinez, Lopez-Lasater and Harris, were converted for their own use without the knowledge and consent of the union or its executive board,” the union says.
     “(F)unds were misappropriated … for purposes other than those intended by SEIU Local 1107, including, for example, medical and premium payments to Lopez-Lasater and compensatory time hours to Harris.”
     The union claims that “a recent review of its disbursement records revealed that several unauthorized payments and benefits were made by Martinez, Lopez-Lasater and Harris on June 28, 2013.”
     Lopez-Lasater received $39,561 in “severance pay and medical premium payments,” according to the complaint.
     The union claims the “payments were approved by Martinez, signed by Martinez and Lopez-Lasater; and Harris issued said payments. These payments were not authorized by SEIU Local 1107 or its executive board and not proper under the SEIU Local 1107 constitution and bylaws.”
     The union says Harris received “gifts” of 30 days worth of compensation, totaling $8,043.36, that was not authorized by the executive board and in violation of union bylaws.
     The gift time off was paid when Harris retired in 2013, and union officials learned the payment was not authorized after it was paid to her, the complaint states.
     The union says the defendants’ actions were “oppressive, willful and intentional or done with reckless disregard for the possible consequences.”
     It accuses the former officers of misuse of funds and conversion and wants the $47.604.61 returned plus $140,000 to “punish Martinez, Lopez-Lasater and Harris and deter such misconduct in the future.”
     Local 1107 represents 8,236 members, primarily involved in health care, and has 96 employees and more than $780,000 in assets, according to UnionFacts.com. The site reports Lopez-Lasater was paid total annual compensation of $94,674 and Harris $79,827 during their final year with Local 1107.
     Although Martinez worked full-time as president of Local 1107, he was paid more than $100,000 per year as Clark County Recreations/Cultural Program supervisor, according to watchdogwire.com. The county’s contract with the SEIU makes it legal for the local’s president to work full-time for the union while drawing a salary paid by Clark County taxpayers.
     Las Vegas attorney Michael Urban represents SEIU Local 1107.

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