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Published November 13 2012

Fargo Teamsters hall closed amid allegations of wrongdoing

FARGO – The public portion of the Teamsters hall here closed Tuesday amid an investigation of financial wrongdoing and corrupt dealings in the organizations’ Local 120 union.

National Teamsters officials say no Fargo members are accused of wrongdoing or set to be replaced. But the local bar and gaming operation, cited as troubled in the investigation, may be closed for good.

The allegations center on Brad Slawson Jr. and Brad Slawson Sr., respectively the president and secretary-treasurer of Local 120. Both are based in Blaine, Minn., a Twin Cities suburb.

According to a letter from national Teamsters President James Hoffa, which was posted on the door of the Fargo union hall, the Slawsons are suspected of misdoings ranging from improper use of union funds to crooked deals with vendors.

The general counsel for Local 120 declined to comment. A phone call to Donny Walz, the Teamsters business agent in Fargo, was not answered.

Local 120 has five satellite offices in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Iowa. It primarily represents drivers and delivery workers.

National Teamsters spokesman Bret Caldwell said the Fargo office will reopen today with the usual business representatives.

“There are no changes at the satellite,” he said.

But the bar is likely a different story. The letter detailed allegations that union funds were being used to make up for “substantial and continued business losses” from the bar.

Caldwell said it’s now closed indefinitely, and that he “would be surprised if it does reopen.”

The liquor license for the bar, an on-sale license for a club, is held by the Slawsons.

Other allegations specific to Fargo include improper payments to union members on the gaming board and the unapproved employment of a family friend of Local 120 leaders.

Board members for charitable organizations aren’t supposed to be paid, but Caldwell said some of the people involved might not have known the payments were improper.

Other allegations not specific to Fargo include:

• Arranging a $90,000 “finder’s fee” for a close family friend tied to the construction of a new union hall in Minnesota in 2007 and 2008.

• Sham collective bargaining agreements with a mortgage broker connected to that project.

• The improper use of more than $189,000 from the union’s strike fund to pay for the project.

• Attempts to get out of personal debts with vendors by promising them union business.

• Trying to get a union employee to lie under oath about the alleged wrongdoings.

Caldwell said all of Local 120’s locations were closed Tuesday as the organization transitioned to the oversight of Bill Moore, a temporary trustee who runs another Teamsters branch in Kansas.

He said the investigation, conducted by an independent review board, began a few months ago and could lead to criminal charges.

Union members will soon get notice of a hearing on the matter and will have the opportunity to weigh in, according to the letter from Hoffa.

Slawson Sr. was part of a ticket that ran against Hoffa in the national Teamsters election last year in a failed attempt to unseat him as general president.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502