GOP congressman calls for hearings into SEIU spending scandal

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

The top-ranking Republican on the House labor committee called Friday for immediate hearings on a spending scandal at California’s largest union local.

In a statement, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) suggested that the committee’s Democratic chairman intended to delay an inquiry into the Service Employees International Union local because of the labor group’s political support for Democrats.

The Bay Area-based chairman, Rep. George Miller, announced about two weeks ago that the Education and Labor Committee would examine the local because of Times reports on its spending practices. But the panel has yet to schedule any hearings.


“The allegations against local union officials in California are deeply disturbing,” McKeon said. “If true, they would represent a serious breach in the public trust and a violation of the rights of thousands of dues-paying union members, and they deserve a thorough investigation.”

Noting that Congress is set to adjourn Sept. 26, McKeon said, “It would be inexcusable for these reports to be ignored simply because the alleged perpetrators are political allies of the Democratic majority.”

Miller spokesman Aaron Albright said Friday that the inquiry is underway, although he would not provide any details. In a subsequent e-mail, he said Miller’s office would respond to McKeon next week.

The Times has disclosed that the SEIU local and a related charity have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to home-based firms owned by the wife and mother-in-law of its president, Tyrone Freeman, and $16,000 to a now-defunct minor league basketball team coached by his brother-in-law.

The local also has paid $219,000 to a video company run by a former staffer, Brian Cheatham. Three other former employees said that Cheatham is a close friend of Freeman and his wife, Pilar Planells.

The 160,000-member local, United Long-Term Care Workers, represents low-wage caregivers who tend to the elderly and infirm.

Freeman and two other SEIU leaders, who have said they did nothing wrong, have gone on leave. At the same time, a federal criminal investigation into the local’s finances has been launched.