Furor in the sheriff's union - Page 2

Ambitious president under fire in lawsuit claiming financial impropriety
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in a manner that did not create liabilities to the Association as an employer." The investigation found that Wong "has not committed any violation of law" but stated that the judgment used to devise this compensation method was "extremely poor."

Eileen Hirst, the San Francisco Sheriff's Department chief of staff, wouldn't comment on the case, calling it "entirely internal" to the SFDSA.

THE GENDER LAWSUIT

This isn't the only lawsuit involving the union, Arata, Pecot, and Tilton. The three senior staffers are named defendants in a gender-discrimination lawsuit filed last year against the sheriff's department.

Murray — Wong's lawyer — also represents the plaintiffs, 35 male and female deputies, in the 2007 case that alleges that the sheriff's department practice of allowing only female deputies to enter women's jail pods exposes those deputies to greater harm and amounts to gender discrimination. Wong isn't mentioned in the suit by name, but his response to the more recent case refers to it as "round one of this dispute."

In the fall of 2007, shortly after the gender discrimination case was filed, Pecot and Arata began looking into the SFDSA books. Pecot, who is a sheriff's captain, told the Guardian that after she requested access to the records, Wong began a campaign to have the SFDSA bylaws amended by vote so that captains and chiefs — who are senior managers in the department — could no longer be SFDSA members.

The union membership approved the change in April, Pecot told us. According to the 2008 complaint, Wong had been "disseminating false and misleading information regarding Plaintiffs in attempt to wrongfully expel them from membership in the SFDSA."

The lawsuit also alleges that Wong and SFDSA's treasurers have "divest[ed] the SFDSA of more than $500,000 of its funds" since 2002. That money, the suit claims, may have gone to the SFDSA Foundation — an organization that, according to the complaint, has no affiliation with the SFDSA.

The complaint states that Wong "deliberately chose the name for his sham organization to deliberately confuse and mislead the public" and "used the income derived from his racketeering activities to establish or operate the SFDSA Foundation."

The suit charges that Wong made $65,000 in political contributions that weren't approved by the union board. Since 2002, the SFDSA has made contributions to candidates such as Assemblymember Fiona Ma, former state treasurer Phil Angelides, state senator Leland Yee, former secretary of state Kevin Shelley, and other state politicians.

Another point of contention revolves around a building fund that Pecot said was created by the SFDSA to purchase a headquarters building. The union's been doing business at 444 Sixth Street for the past six years. Pecot says that until recently, she thought the property was owned by the SFDSA. She found out that in fact Wong was leasing it with nearly $200,000 from the building fund, and the complaint specifies that Wong and the treasurer at the time "falsely represented to the SFDSA membership that the SFDSA had purchased a building and was paying a mortgage."

Another money issue that the plaintiffs say they tried to resolve before going to court concerns funds that allegedly have been missing since the termination of the SFDSA's affiliation with Operating Engineers Local 3. When Wong became SFDSA president in 2002, the SFDSA was affiliated with OE Local 3, another union that handled some legal work for deputies, a service for which each SFDSA member paid $27 per month. But Wong ended the affiliation in May of this year — a move plaintiffs say was not approved by the board.

Wong sent out a memo at the end of May that explained why he ended the affiliation.

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