UNITE HERE’s officials have a long history of corruption and ties to the mob. Today, another chapter in that text. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that the international union has been forced to oust two local leaders:
Jorge Santiesteban, president of Local 355 of Unite-Here, and Andre J. Balash, the local’s secretary-treasurer, were charged with misusing union funds for personal expenses and other ethics code violations.
But wait, the union’s top brass is careful to not stand on principle when its members’ money is involved:
In a statement of disciplinary charges filed April 4, 2006, board investigator Howard O’Leary Jr. said Balash knowingly associated with Rocco J. Panaro, who was banned from contact with union officials as part of a 1992 consent decree that resolved racketeering charges against the union’s New York local.
Balash and Santiesteban each misused between $3,000 and $4,000 of union funds on meals and hotel stays, the statement alleged. [Union spokeswoman Amanda] Cooper said the board found merit in some of the charges, but that the amounts were not enough to threaten the local’s finances. “In the grand scheme of things, what has gone on there is not a big deal,” she said.
Not a big deal, indeed.