The Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association, which had its chaotic financial situation enter a new dimension when its offices were raided by FBI Agents Sept. 18 and it was subsequently learned that the union owed $500,000 to its longtime dental and prescription-drug providers, had its future further clouded when the de Blasio administration designated its 600 members as Transitional Employees.
That step, announced in an Oct. 31 letter to union President Kenneth Wynder from city Labor Commissioner Renee Campion, made the 600 Environmental Police Officers, Highway Inspectors and Sanitation Enforcement Agents eligible as of Nov. 10 to enroll in the New York City Management Benefits Fund, which provides supplemental benefits to managerial employees and other workers who are ineligible for union representation.
Failed to Provide Records
The city has been purchasing prescription-drug coverage for those employees since last December, when the Office of Labor Relations ceased payments to the union’s benefit funds because of City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s complaints that Mr. Wynder for an extended period had failed to provide records known as Directive 12s to his office concerning union benefit funds.
Mr. Wynder, who following the FBI raid sent an unsigned message to members that it stemmed from an attempt by city officials “to intimidate this union into playing along and agreeing with its pattern bargain[ing] agenda,” stayed on the offensive in a Nov. 15 interview in which he asserted, “This is a war between LEEBA and the city, and they’re taking it out on the members.”
While he had won a breakthrough contract award in arbitration for Environmental Police Officers early in the decade, they are currently working under a contract that expired two years ago, he said. He has filed for arbitration on their behalf and for Sanitation Enforcement Agents who have been under an expired pact since 2012, and plans to take the same step shortly for Highway Inspectors.
In notifying members in late August that their dental coverage under Emblem Health would be canceled Sept. 1, Mr. Wynder said the hardship they would experience was “why OLR is attacking you the members. They can’t make LEEBA fall in line and sign the pattern like every other union is doing. They chose their strategy of Economic Apartheid to stop funding LEEBA and break its members.”
Scoffed at Lateness
Late last year, after then-Labor Commissioner Robert W. Linn said he had placed union benefit funds in escrow at the request of Mr. Stringer because Mr. Wynder ignored repeated requests to provide the Directive 12s, the union leader brushed off the seriousness of his delay, telling a reporter, “I admit it: I’m late. So what?”
He voiced similar sentiments in the latest interview, saying, “If you don’t pay your taxes on time, does that mean you’re a crook?”
Persons familiar with the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at the time of the FBI raid that even the Directive 12s that were filed by LEEBA covering 2016 and 2017 were “missing some significant information.”
The problem with the Comptroller’s Office and OLR and the Federal investigation were not the only red flags raised about the state of LEEBA’s finances. Last April a judgment was entered in State Supreme Court in Westchester awarding $136,161 to Delta Dental Plan of Mechanicsburg, Pa. for nonpayment by the union for services it provided. The award was made by default, the judgment stated, after union officials failed to appear in court or otherwise respond to the complaint.
Mr. Wynder denied the union had neglected its obligations to Delta, saying, “We paid our bills. Then all of a sudden they said ‘you owe us.’ We never saw the lawsuit” and had been surprised by the default judgment.
Owes Drug-Provider $363G
The union’s longtime prescription-drug provider, Buffalo-based Independent Health’s Pharmacy Benefit Dimensions, on June 10 sent a letter to Mr. Wynder demanding payment of $363,218 which it said was owed for the period from Jan. 1, 2014 through Dec. 17, 2018. Virtually that entire period predated the point at which OLR ceased making payments to the union’s benefit funds at the Comptroller’s request. The letter detailed repeated delays in payment and failure to pay that led it to cancel its contract with the union last December.
Again, Mr. Wynder insisted that he had remained current on what was owed to Independent, which he said had dealt with the union since 2007, until the Office of Labor Relations discontinued payment to the union’s benefits fund in August 2018. Asked about the discrepancy between that claim and the prescription-drug-provider’s letter stating it was owed money going back nearly six years, he said, “We paid them every invoice that they sent us. We had no problems with our benefits until the city stepped in and screwed us over.”
Ms. Campion’s letter to Mr. Wynder stated that “monies which would have otherwise been contributed to the LEEBA welfare fund will instead be made to the Management Benefits Fund.”
He questioned how the money the city was committed to pay for member benefits under the contract could have been exhausted, adding, “I kept those members afloat as long as I could.”
Target of Prosecutors?
Asked whether he has had any conversations with Federal prosecutors since the raid that would indicate that he is a target of possible criminal prosecution, Mr. Wynder replied, “I don’t wanna talk about that.”
He was not reticent about why he and LEEBA members are going through this ordeal, however.
“I don’t play well with the city,” Mr. Wynder said. “They don’t like me, they wanna get rid of me.”
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