Disgraced Teamsters boss continued to be involved with San Leandro dispensary after two-year ban from union

Powerful Teamsters boss Rome Aloise was
banned from the union in December following
corruption charges.

SAN LEANDRO
Nearly a month after Rome Aliose, a powerful local Teamsters leader was banned by the union for two years following corruption charges, he attended a San Leandro City Council retreat, along with Davis Street Family Resource Center CEO Rose Padilla Johnson. Workers represented by Teamsters Joint Council 7, which Aloise previously led, are slated to staff the forthcoming for-profit Davis Street Wellness Center medical cannabis dispensary, which has financial ties to Johnson and the non-profit Davis Street Family Resource Center.

In addition, Johnson’s appearance at the Saturday morning, Jan. 20 retreat came two day after she publicly disclosed allegations of sexual misconduct against San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata–who also attended the council retreat–claiming he pressured her for a sexual relationship in exchange for continued use of public funds for the local non-profit. Zapata denies the allegation and the City Council on Jan. 23 voted to place him on paid administrative leave pending the results of an investigation.
But while Johnson and the Davis Street Family Resource Center Board of Directors have maintained the allegations against Zapata are solely related to the non-profit and a $1.5 million loan it received from the city, the connections in leadership and finances to the for-profit medical cannabis dispensary have been quite clear. The presence of the Teamsters union has also played a less public role in the background by lobbying city officials, many of which strive to win the union’s support during re-election, to approve the dispensary’s conditional-use permit–a process that has seriously frayed the once-sterling working relationship between Johnson and the city.

The pressure from the union, according to city sources, has been growing over the months as city officials continued to maintain the Family Resource Center would have to repay the $325,000 balance of a once forgivable federal loan for the non-profit’s building on Teagarden Street in order to house the dispensary on the same property.

The union boss’s appearance underscores the aggressive push in recent months for finalizing the cannabis permit by the union and those representing both Davis Street entities.

The appearance by Aloise on Jan. 20 was not the first time he made an appearance before San Leandro city officials. As late as early December, Aloise and local Teamster political director Doug Bloch met with city officials.

The union announced on Dec. 22, following an extensive years-long investigation that Aloise would be banned from an union activities for two years, in addition, to forfeiting $383,000 in annual compensation. Aloise suggested he was the victim of a right-wing conspiracy perpetrated in part by the Koch Brothers.

Before the current controversies, Aloise was viewed as possibly the most powerful union leader on the west coast. His growing influence, it has been suggested, may have also been making the Teamsters’ national leadership uneasy.

Aloise’s domain covered most of the west coast. But with the power, according to an investigation released last October, described a union leader willing to trade labor deals for personal enrichment. The specific charges found Aloise asked a company that was in the process of negotiating a new union contract for $1,000 tickets to a Playboy Super Bowl Party, pressured another to hire his cousin as a favor to him, and rigged a local Teamsters election in 2014.

Last November, in a memo, an independent investigator named Joseph diGenova argued the scope of Aloise’s misdeeds were too widespread and without a full ban would continue to persist. “His actions established that despite full knowledge of the legal restrictions on his conduct, Aloise, a powerful union official, unhesitatingly engaged in willful and knowing violations when such misconduct furthered his personal goals,” wrote diGenova.

“Aloise has repeatedly shown his contempt for all legal restraints on his conduct. The only way to ensure Aloise’s non-involvement in IBT affairs is through an associational ban where both he and those IBT employees and officers who have knowing contacts with him can be held accountable.”

In August, the independent investigations review officer, Judge Barbara Jones, had even pointed criticism of Aloise’s conduct. “Aloise stands alone in the number and breadth of serious violations he was found to have engaged in while an International Vice President.”

According to three people who attended the Jan. 20 retreat, Johnson sat along with Aloise near the back of the room. Neither spoke, but their presence was a clear statement, according to the witnesses, occuring during a section of the meeting while Zapata was giving a general presentation to the council. Johnson and Aloise left shortly afterwards.

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