Former AFGE Border Patrol Council President Indicted

By • August 21, 2012 0 Comments

Former President T.J. Bonner of the National Border Patrol Council, a major component of the American federation of Government Employees, was indicted August 16 on 13 criminal charges.  This follows a number of indictments and convictions against AFGE officials.  These charges related to actions allegedly taken by him while serving as President.  If you have not read a Federal criminal indictment (file follows at the end of this article), it’s certainly worth the read.  In this case, the indictment details the alleged actions by the former union president while still both the union president and a border patrol officer. As you read this, remember that Mr. Bonner is innocent of these charges unless proven guilty in a court of law.

The indictment point out that Bonner was a full time union representative for the 22 years prior to his Federal retirement in May of 2010.  That means the Border Patrol paid him as an agent but he didn’t spend any of his time on the job. One should really read the indictment (provided above) to get an idea of the apparent complete authority such leaders have to spend members’ money.  Money allegedly spent on family members and in this case, allegedly a “mistress”.  BTW, that’s not a term you hear every day in 2012 America.

On its website, the National Border Patrol Council responded to this indictment.  (see below)

“National Border Patrol Council Responds to the Indictment of Former NBC President T.J. Bonner

Friday, 17 August 2012

On August 16, 2012, T.J. Bonner, the former president of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) was indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego, California. According to the press release and indictment, the charges against Bonner include conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and a scheme to defraud the members of the NBPC.

In April 2010, the NBPC executive committee members first learned about an official investigation related to travel vouchers submitted by Bonner. In response, the committee initiated an investigation into the matter. Shortly thereafter, the Committee determined there was sufficient reason to believe Bonner may have acted inappropriately and asked Bonner to step aside while the matter was being investigated by the grand jury. Bonner refused and said the committee did not have the authority to remove him from his elected position.

The NBPC cooperated from the beginning of this investigation and knew it was necessary to take proactive measures to protect NBPC funds, such as: requesting multiple audits of the NBPC financial records; revising internal policies; eliminating questionable sections of the policies (e.g. gifts for spouses and direct-billed credit cards); adding additional layers of review for all expense vouchers; prohibiting a committee member from approving his/her own personal expense voucher; requiring advance approval from the executive committee for travel that was expected to exceed $500.00; and finally, appointing a new Secretary/Treasurer.

The NBPC executive committee also requested the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) to suspend Bonner from his position while the matter was being investigated. Yet, due to the U.S. Attorney’s investigation taking an extended period of time, AFGE was hesitant to intervene and remove Bonner from his elected position so close to the end of his term without any charges being filed. During this entire time, Bonner refused to cooperate with the executive committee.  He threatened committee members with civil litigation and filed charges with AFGE against the majority of the executive committee, who were ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing after the matter was investigated by AFGE.

In June 2010, a meeting was held with the 16 local presidents and Bonner, and the information that was available to the executive committee at that time was discussed. Unfortunately, any further release of information could have jeopardized the criminal investigation or may have led to further charges against the Council and committee members.  Clearly, this is a black eye for the NBPC, and the executive committee apologizes to all of our members for not being able to discuss this matter earlier due to the U.S. Attorney’s investigation.

In closing, we are pleased that the legal process is finally moving forward. The NBPC is confident that justice will be served and hopes to recover any funds misappropriated by Bonner.  We now must look to the future and tackle important issues facing all of our members.  The current executive committee is dedicated to continuing to make our Union one of the strongest in the federal government.”  (My Emphasis)

As the first highlighted portion indicates, the Council was rightly concerned about the allegations and you can draw your own conclusions about their view of the help they got from AFGE National.

As the second highlighted portion clearly says, this is a black eye for the Council.  One should remember, in all of this, that the U.S. Border Patrol has one of the most difficult and dangerous jobs in government.  The employees deserve the very best and most honest representatives they can get.  I’m sure the Council believes that as well.  Over the years, I’ve conducted a number of classes both for and including Border Patrol managers and came to understand that they and their agents make many personal sacrifices and face much danger on our behalf.

Numerous Other AFGE Officials Faced Charges in Last Two Years

This case is not an isolated incident.  The Labor Department reported the following on its website:

On July 17, 2012, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, James Charleston, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2107 (located in North Chicago, Ill.), Jacquelyn Pugh-Rodgers, former Vice President, and Mary Craigen, former Secretary-Treasurer, were each charged in a five-count indictment with one count of embezzlement of more than $1,000 on a federal enclave, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 661, and two counts of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1341.  The charges follow an investigation by the OLMS Chicago District Office. 

On May 14, 2012, in the Pennington County South Dakota District Court, William Bilger, former Secretary-Treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 3365 (located in Rapid City, S.D.), pled guilty to petty  theft greater than $400 and less than $1,000.  Bilger was subsequently sentenced on the same date to pay restitution in the amount of $2,137 within one year, to obey all laws, and to pay grand jury costs.  The plea and sentencing follow an investigation by the OLMS Milwaukee District Office.

On April 10, 2012, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Vicki Guynn, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1612 (located in Springfield, Mo.), was sentenced to four months of home confinement and three years of probation.  On December 15, 2011, Guynn pled guilty to a one-count information charging her with wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343, in connection with an embezzlement of $16,081.  The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS St. Louis District Office, the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General, and the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General.

On February 20, 2012, in the General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division for the State of North Carolina, County of Durham, Terry L. Wagner, former Secretary-Treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2923 (located in Durham, N.C.), was indicted for embezzlement totaling between $7,312 and $7,845.  The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Nashville District Office.

On February 1, 2012, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Kelly Dull, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2904 (located in Kansas City, Mo.), pled guilty to one count of wire fraud in the amount of $32,118.66, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343.  The plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Kansas City Resident Investigator Office.

On January 20, 2012, in the State of Louisiana, 26th Judicial District, Parish of Bossier, John Wayne Walker, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2000 (located in Shreveport, La.), was sentenced  for felony theft.  Walker’s sentence was deferred pursuant to Article 893 for five years.  He has also been placed on active probation for five years with the following special conditions: (1) comply with Article 893; (2) make restitution of $16,057.75 over probation period; (3) pay $75 per month for supervision fees; and (4) pay a fine of $500 and cost over probation.  On January 20, 2012, Walker pled guilty to one count of felony theft of $16,057.75 in union funds, in violation of Louisiana Revised Statute 14:67.  The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS New Orleans District Office.

On December 12, 2011, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Federck C. Petro, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2094 (located in New York, N.Y.), was charged in a criminal complaint with embezzling $112,477 in union funds in a federal enclave, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 661.  The charges follow an investigation by the OLMS New York District Office.

On November 16, 2011, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Ann Kelly, former Secretary-Treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2814 (located in Council Bluffs, Iowa), was sentenced to six months home confinement and three years probation.  Kelly was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and a $100 special assessment.  She paid $33,296.28 in restitution prior to sentencing.  On August 11, 2011, Kelly pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343.  The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS St. Louis District Office.

On October 24, 2011, in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Victor Davis, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 3283 (located in Cleveland, Ohio), was indicted on one count of theft in excess of $500 but less than $5,000.  The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

On March 17, 2011, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, an information was filed against Richard Barnes, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 517 (located in Atlanta, Ga.), charging him with theft by deception totaling $14,024 under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, Section 16-8-3(a), as assimilated under Title 18, United States Code, Section 13.  The charge follows an investigation by the OLMS Nashville District Office.

So What Should Come of This?

Apparently the Labor department is doing its job, what about AFGE?  The idea that a union official at any level could use hard-earned dues money for anything but getting better working conditions should appall union leaders.   I hope AFGE understands that its criticisms of Agency leaders for the way they spend money lacks credibility in light of the above.  It may not, as no mention of any of this appears in AFGE’s press releases.  Maybe these charges are part of the great right wing conspiracy to undermine the union?  Sounds like they’re doing a good job of that themselves without outside help?

So what is the takeaway lesson from this sad affair and the others cited.  Whether Mr. Bonner or the others are guilty or innocent of a specific crime, if the facts cited are true in all these cases, shouldn’t AFGE have been doing a much better job of auditing the union to insure fiscal integrity and adherence to ethical standards?  Was AFGE national asleep at that switch? 

One cannot help but ask what specific steps are being taken by AFGE to ensure that its other councils, districts and locals are safeguarding dues and putting them to representing employees, the purpose for which they were intended.  A number of these union leaders are relatively low paid employees for whom apparently uncontrolled access to union funds may be very tempting. 

This matter also raises the question of whether federal employee unions should be professional organizations and their leaders not be Federal employees at the same time.  I understand that one cannot hold an elected position in AFGE without being a bargaining unit employee of a Federal Agency or retired from Federal service.  If I’m wrong about that, please correct me.  It also seriously begs the question of whether these folks can be trusted with official time i.e., taxpayers money.

Any opinion expressed in this article is mine alone.  Let me repeat that, in all of this, Mr. Bonner and others indicted but not convicted are innocent of these charges unless proven guilty in a court of law.

US v. Bonner

Based on discussions with some Agencies, and sponsored by RGS, I and some colleagues plan to offer a “Practitioner’s Course in Labor Relations” and a “Practitioner’s Course in Employee Relations” focusing on advising managers, using proven tools to enhance case management, and matters of interest to the specialist, advocate or attorney with a basic grounding in these programs. We plan to offer these around the country and in D.C. If you have an interest in learning more, please let me know. You can do so using the “contact” link at the bottom of this article. RGS has also given us the go ahead to do an update for practitioners this spring in the D.C. area. I’ll follow up with more information as arrangements firm up.

© 2014 Robert J. Gilson. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Robert J. Gilson.

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About the Author (  |   )

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.

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