Monday February 10, 2014, 5:00 pm
By Randy Economy and Brian Hews
William Waggoner with Hilda Solis. The lawsuit accuses Solis of not reporting flights to the Federal Elections Commission on the Union’s jet. HMG-CN was provided with flight logs that detail the plane trips that lasted in some cases less than five minutes between Ontario and El Monte, costing thousands of dollars.
Hews Media Group-Community News has obtained a lawsuit filed in the California Central US District Court claiming that former US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, a current candidate for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, was provided thousands of dollars worth of free private jet travel without declaring the trips on the federal government required forms, paid for by the powerful International Union of Operating Engineers based in Pasadena during the same period she was undergoing confirmation hearings to become part of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet.
The case is currently making its way through the court system and is before Judge Dean D. Pregerson.
Sources close to the case tell HMG-CN that Solis was given transportation on IUOE Local 12′s Cessna Citation XL Jet and that Solis failed to report the in-kind gift to the Federal Election Commission as required under law.
According to the Office of the Clerk U.S. House of Representatives website, no Financial Disclosure Reports have been filed by Solis.
A further examination of Gift and Travel findings on the same website revealed 11 trips taken by Solis, none provided by the IUOE.
Solis is not specifically named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed January 6. Long time IUOE leader William Waggoner, his wife, son, and several key members of the union’s hierarchy are listed as Defendants.
HMG-CN also confirmed that Waggoner provided the XL jet to fly Solis between commuter airports in El Monte and Ontario on several occasions so “she could avoid freeway traffic.” HMG-CN was provided a list of those flights.
HMG-CN was provided with flight logs that detail the plane trips that lasted in some cases less than five minutes between the two small airports, costing thousands of dollars.
Solis and her husband have been longtime residents of El Monte.
The Cessna Citation XL jet that Ms. Solis flew on.
Attorneys J. Mark Moore and H. Scott Leviant with the Woodland Hills based law firm of Moore & Leviant filed the complex 290-page RICO class action lawsuit on behalf of four members of IUOE Local 12 and they claim that Waggoner and his wife Patty, son Phil Waggoner and several other members of the union’s inner circle conducted “years of illegal activity and embezzlement which harmed both Local 12 and its members.”
Moore and Leviant did not want to provide any specific comments about the case to HMG-CN on Monday afternoon in a telephone interview. “The case is active, and we do not want to comment further at this time,” Moore said.
The attorney’s did confirm that they are representing Mario Salas, Melvin Chamberlain, Albin Watson, and John Paxin in the case, all active members of the IUOE.
The plaintiffs claim that “IUOE influenced Hilda Solis’ congressional election campaign in 2008.”
The IUOE and other unions heavily funded Solis’ campaign during her years in Congress and even back when she served as an elected Assembly Member, State Senator, and as a Trustee to the Rio Hondo College Board.
“In fact, during her time in Congress, between 2001 and 2009, she received more than $900,000 in contributions from unions,” the suit states.
“Ms. Solis flew on Local 12’s Jet while serving in Congress, though it appears that she failed to report the in-kind contributions from Local 12,” the plaintiffs charge.
According to the supporting documents filed in the case, William Waggoner announced at the union’s regularly held Western Conference that Solis had been flown to Washington D.C. on the Local 12 Jet around the time that she was under active consideration and confirmation for Labor Secretary in 2009.
The lawsuit says that “Waggoner bragged openly that he was flying Solis back to Washington D.C. for this purpose.”
It is also being claimed that Local 12 Director Vince Giblin, who is listed as a codefendant in the lawsuit, boasted to other union members that, “we finally have a friend in the Department of Labor.” Giblin, according to the lawsuit, then chastised other Business Managers within the powerful union “for failing to make similar investments in political candidates.”
According to the lawsuit, in late 2012, Waggoner flew union leaders Larry Hopkins and Ron Havlick to Washington D.C. “to meet with Ms. Solis over a Local 12 problem involving the Department of Labor when Waggoner believed that legal action was imminent.”
Offered as part of the evidence in the case is a Jan. 2013 article published in the Washington Times that discussed Solis’s “policy of protecting unions.” “One of her biggest changes in direction was her reversal of the Bush administration’s efforts to fight union corruption. Ms. Solis’ predecessor, Elaine Chao, had issued several rule changes to make it easier for union members and watchdogs to detect wrongdoing.
Ms. Solis rolled those changes back saying “they had a detrimental impact on workers” and “made the union financial reporting requirements not only overly burdensome but ineffective,” the article stated.
“There is little doubt about her close ties to Local 12, Waggoner and the International Union of Operating Engineers,” the lawsuit claims. A photo of a beaming Waggoner and Solis that was published in a union trade publication was included in the lawsuit.
Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper also obtained a picture of the airplane that was allegedly used to shuttle Solis to Washington DC. The entire lawsuit was also published online.
Others listed in the lawsuit as co-defendants is James T. Callahan, Russell E. Burns, Patrick L. Sink, Patricia Waggoner, Bert Tolbert, Mickey J. Adams, Ron Sikorski, Dan Billy, Dan Hawn, Larry Davison, C. W. Poss, Walt Elliot, Michael Crawford, Bruce Cooksey, Mike Pruch, Don Bourguignon, Kenneth Bourguignon, Paul Von Berg, Jim Hulse, Mike Gomez, Kenneth Waggoner and Chris Laquer.
Solis is running for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in the upcoming June Primary election here in California that is being vacated by longtime Supervisor Gloria Molina.
HMG-CN left a message with Solis’ campaign consultant Parke Skelton on Monday afternoon, who was not available for comment.
Also, Laura Eimiller, a spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Investigation here in Los Angeles would not comment on the matter. “We do not as a matter of policy comment on matters such as these,” Eimiller said.
Update: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2013 2 p.m. PST
Steve Barkan, a political campaign spokesperson for Solis issued a statement to Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper on Tuesday afternoon regarding the situation. “Hilda did not fly on their plane for confirmations hearings, and she did not fly on their plane between El Monte and Ontario. Your sources are incorrect.”