At Labor, A Sorry State Of The Union

The American Federation of Government Employees' Local 12, which represents 4,000 workers at the Labor Dept., was supposed to be helping the Clinton Administration reinvent government. But the union local itself is getting reinvented first. In mid-July, AFGE President John N. Sturdivant placed the

local in trusteeship after a preliminary audit found evidence of lax financial management.

AFGE investigators found that funds were missing and that many checks lacked the requisite two signatures. As much as $80,000 vanished or was spent improperly, the union says. Sturdivant, who made himself trustee and ousted half the local's 10 board members and officers, will hold a trusteeship hearing in September. Later, the union will decide whether to make criminal referrals.

The takeover of the local is particularly embarrassing for the Labor Dept. The agency that's responsible for supervising the finances of unions nationwide didn't know what was going on under its nose. What's more, Labor Secretary Robert Reich has worked closely with AFGE on everything from streamlining manuals for compliance officers at the Occupational Safety & Health Administration to simplifying the forms that workers use to apply for benefits.

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