SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL/AP) — The head of California’s largest state employee union has been suspended, its vice presidents said Monday.
The three vice presidents for Local 1000 of the Service Employees International Union said President Richard Louis Brown “posed an immediate threat to the welfare” of the union and its 96,000 members.
“After running on a platform of transparency, fiscal restraint and upholding democratic procedures, troubling patterns emerged with Brown’s actions that dismantled transparency, financial prudence and democracy,” a release sent Monday reads.
Since then, the Local 1000 vice presidents, or executive committee, claim Brown orchestrated a number of “improper and self-interested actions.”
Their release alleges Brown misused his role as president in response to lawsuits against the union, committed “fiscal malfeasance” and tried to illegally suspend the vice presidents’ memberships. They also claim he didn’t hold board meetings, “which dismantled officer and board oversight,” and went around the board by giving staff additional paid days off.
Brown said he gave union staff additional days off in recognition of their hard work. He also said other union leadership was after him because he didn’t share the union’s traditional politics. As an example, he cited his work to keep open a prison that the state wants to close in rural Northern California.
The executive committee said Brown’s suspension is effective immediately and mentioned the possibility of charges being filed against him.
Brown, who has been a controversial leader since he was elected to a three-year term last May, said Monday he rejected the allegations and was still the union’s rightful president. He called the movement against him a coup and said he didn’t recognize the suspension. He said he had already suspended the vice presidents as of Friday.
“Since Day 1 that has been their whole desire: To remove me from office,” he said.
The union’s policy manual gives the president power to suspend members and the vice presidents power to suspend the president. It appeared that the union was operating Monday under the leadership of the vice presidents, who had already secured support for Brown’s suspension from the national parent union.
Brown, an analyst in the state treasurer’s office, defeated longtime President Yvonne Walker last year in a low-turnout election.
From the beginning, he staked out positions at odds with the union’s traditional views. He said the union shouldn’t financially support Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom as he faced a recall, but the union’s board voted to contribute $1 million anyway. He also wanted to cut ties with the parent Service Employees International Union.
Union Vice President David Jimenez will immediately assume a leadership role as the union’s staff and 65-member board determines what to do next, said Nash, the union spokesman. Jimenez joined fellow vice presidents Anica Walls and Irene Green in voting to suspend Brown.
“This isn’t something that we’re all smiling and high-fiving each other,” Nash said. “It’s a sad day for all of us and we’re trying to move forward in the best interests of our members.”
SEIU, the parent union, supported the vice presidents’ move. In a statement, the union said it hoped Brown’s suspension would “stabilize the local and safeguard the interests of the members while related charges and legal matters are fully and fairly adjudicated.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.