The Orange County Register

(Santa Ana, CA)

Santa Ana union chief to lose job

Internal judge finds head of Laborers local guilty of misusing funds

BERNARD J. WOLFSON
April 14, 2000

The Laborers International Union of North America will oust Ruben L. Gomez, the head of Local 652 in Santa Ana, after finding him guilty of misappropriating union funds and lying about it to investigators.

Gomez will be removed from office and barred from any job with the union for five years. The decision also will remove and bar Mario Hernandez, a Local 652 member and organizer, for complicity in the scheme.

Gomez did not return phone calls Thursday. Hernandez could not be reached for comment.

In January, LIUNAs independent hearing officer, Peter Vaira, found Gomez guilty of scheming to misuse union funds for personal trips to San Francisco and Las Vegas.

Gomez appealed the decision, but E. Neil Eggleston, the unions internal appeals officer, upheld it in a ruling handed down April 7. Under a 1995 agreement with the U.S. Justice Department, the scandal-plagued LIUNA set up a reform program to weed out corruption and to cut ties to organized crime. The system includes internal investigators, an internal prosecutor and judicial officers.

Since 1995, about 220 union officers have been removed from office, expelled from LIUNA or forced to resign.

The decision is an internal union matter and does not imply criminal guilt, said Robert Luskin, the unions internal prosecutor.

Luskin said the process of removing Gomez is under way. The unions regional manager, Mason M. Warren, will appoint an acting head of Local 652 until the membership can elect one.

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