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Latest News - January 2012

January 16, 2012
Allegations against Tropicana union chief revealed
Source: Bradenton Herald
By: Josh Salman

   BRADENTON -- The recent suspension of local Tropicana union chief Robert Tuttle was spurred over a slew of misconduct allegations that range from improper use of funds to physical threats toward other trustees, according to a union memo.

An official from the Teamsters’ national office in Washington D.C., has seized control of the local chapter until he completes an internal investigation.

An initial report compiled by the union alleges Tuttle, the president and business manager of the Teamsters Chapter 173 union, improperly obtained at least four loans of more than $1,000 by using the union’s credit card for cash advances at casinos.     

      The memo also states Tuttle often used the union credit card for excessive fuel and business travel; plane change fees for his girlfriend; groceries; medical prescriptions; and other personal expenses.

Tuttle continued his abuse of office even after an internal auditor warned him about the violations in 2010, records show.

Tuttle violated other organization bylaws by bringing guns to union meetings and threatening board members who disagreed with his methods with economic retaliation and physical violence, according to the union memo, which was posted to an internal message board late last week.

The local union, located at 824 26th Ave. E., Bradenton, represents Tropicana workers here and on Florida’s east coast.

“The International Union has been furnished with reports of (Tuttle’s) activities, which have confirmed that the Local has not been operating in an acceptable manner,” the report said. “Virtually none of the safeguards recommended to be implemented have been effectuated.”

Union officials declined to comment on the specific allegations, but said Tuttle would face an internal hearing within the next 60 days, once the investigation concludes.

National Teamsters Trustee Mike McElmury, who’s running the investigation in Bradenton, will handle all labor negotiations and grievances on behalf of union members until the case is resolved. The chapter will lose all local control until the process is complete, which could take up to two years, a union spokesman said.

Tuttle couldn’t be reached for comment. An attorney representing the local chapter is traveling out of the country.

“The day-to-day business of the union will continue,” McElmury said. “The situation is really not as bad as it seems.”

If a union panel finds the allegations are true, the entire board will be removed to make way for new elections. The internal report also held other union board members responsible for the situation by allowing the abuse continue.

Tuttle works in Tropicana’s maintenance department. He didn’t show up for work Friday, which security staff confirmed was directly related to the union issues, but a Tropicana spokeswoman declined to disclose his official job status.

The company had no comment on the allegations.

Tuttle could also potentially face criminal charges once the case is turned over to local authorities and the U.S. Department of Labor, which typically occurs at some point in the process, union spokesman Bret Caldwell said.



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