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Midwestern SEIU official resigns

Byron Hobbs, accused of billing the union for $9,000 in personal expenses, is the latest to leave a high-ranking post in the organization.

February 12, 2009|Paul Pringle

A high-ranking Midwest officer of the Service Employees International Union, who had been serving as trustee of a financially troubled local, has resigned after being accused of billing the labor organization for $9,000 in personal expenses.

The Chicago-based Byron Hobbs, who also sat on the union's national board, is the latest of several SEIU officials to lose their positions or otherwise come under scrutiny for alleged financial improprieties. Among them is Tyrone Freeman, former president of the union's largest California local, who is the target of a federal criminal investigation.

Hobbs could not be reached for comment.

He was executive vice president of the SEIU's 90,000-member Illinois-Indiana healthcare local, and was overseeing a St. Louis chapter that the union had placed in trusteeship.

SEIU spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette said Wednesday that Hobbs has repaid the $9,000. She said the charges were from the Illinois-Indiana local, and the union is auditing the St. Louis chapter to ensure there has been no improper spending there.

A spokeswoman for the Illinois-Indiana local, Brynn Seibert, said the union's handling of the allegedly improper charges showed "the system works."

In California, Freeman was ousted after The Times disclosed that his 160,000-member local and an affiliated charity paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to small companies owned by his wife and mother-in-law, and spent a similar amount on luxury golf tournaments, expensive restaurants and a cigar lounge.

His former chief of staff, Rickman Jackson, was removed as head of the SEIU's largest Michigan local, because he allegedly received improper lease payments for his Bell Gardens house.

Annelle Grajeda, president of both a second L.A. local and the SEIU's state council, has been on leave since August, when the union began investigating whether she had improperly used her influence to keep her ex-boyfriend on the county payroll. She has denied any wrongdoing.

Last month, the union imposed a trusteeship on an Oakland-based local and fired its officers, accusing them of misusing dues money to wage a political battle against SEIU President Andy Stern.

The former Oakland officers, who allege they were punished for voicing dissent, are now organizing a rival healthcare union.


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