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Ex-union chief guilty in campaign scheme

October 28, 2006|Joe Mozingo | Times Staff Writer

The former president of the union local that represents Los Angeles school workers was convicted Friday of two counts of conspiracy and two counts of perjury for a scheme to illegally divert union funds to former City Councilman Martin Ludlow's 2003 campaign.

Janett Humphries, 63, who was president of Service Employees International Union Local 99, sobbed after hearing the verdicts. She could get up to three years in prison, but lawyers in the case said she was unlikely to get much time because of her previously clean criminal record. Sentencing is set for Nov. 16.

Prosecutors contended that Humphries had the union pay $33,095 in salaries to seven of Ludlow's campaign workers and provided him with a cellphone, which he used to rack up $3,397.73 in calls. Ludlow resigned his council seat to head the county labor federation, then stepped down from that post to face state and federal charges. He pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to violate the city's $500 limit on campaign contributions and was sentenced to three years' probation.

Humphries was charged with the same count, as well as another count of conspiracy and two counts of perjury for concealing the illegal contributions.

Her attorney, former City Councilman Nick Pacheco, tried to depict Humphries as an unsophisticated figurehead who did not know she was doing something illegal. He said the union's accounting firm advised her to sign blank campaign contribution disclosure forms.

"This is a huge accounting firm," he said. "They said we have all of our union clients sign the filing forms because they travel a lot. To hold her accountable for that is unbelievable."

Pacheco and his co-counsel sought to show that the commingling of union and campaign funds is commonplace, and questioned the integrity of union politics in Los Angeles. They depicted Humphries as an unwitting cog in the system.

The prosecutor said it made no difference how pervasive the practice is.

"I don't know how often this happens," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Max Huntsman. "All I know is we found crimes in this case, and we prosecuted them."

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