Sunday, May 31, 2009

Judie Italiano out as manager of MEA, the largest white collar union of San Diego city employees

Judie Italiano has resigned as manager of the San Diego Metropolitan Employees Association (MEA), and her erstwhile supporters are scrambling to distance themselves from her.

Events have developed quickly since MEA members Linda French and Ed Harris sued Ms. Italiano a few weeks ago.

Italiano Resigns After Investigation Finds Card Misuse

Voice of San Diego
May 29, 2009

Judie Italiano, the longtime general manager of the Municipal Employees' Association, has resigned after an internal investigation determined that she continued to use the union's credit cards for her personal use despite promising not to do so in 2006.

MEA board members said in a letter sent to members today that the union had referred the matter to the District Attorney's Office for "its determination as to whether any crime was committed in the course of Ms. Italiano's breach of trust."

Michael Zucchet, a former city councilman who had been working as a consultant to the group, has been acting as general manager since Italiano was put on leave May 12 as the union conducted an investigation.

Italiano's personal use of credit cards was first discovered in 2006 and was the subject of an internal investigation, a campaign to unseat her, and an investigation by then-City Attorney Mike Aguirre.

In an interview today, MEA President Tony Ruiz said the union subsequently changed its policies to prohibit the personal use of credit cards. Italiano also agreed to pay the association back for personal charges, Ruiz said.

Ruiz said Italiano stopped using the card for personal charges shortly after those charges came to light. But starting in November 2006, she resumed using the union cards for personal charges such as groceries and a casino gift shop, Ruiz said.

Ruiz said he discovered Italiano's personal credit charges when he was preparing his first budget as association president and examined the books kept by office staff. The letter sent to members says Italiano wrote the organization a check totaling $13,903 covering the full amount, including interest, of $6,916 owed in credit card charges, along with $6,987 in annual leave. Those cover charges made through February 2009, Ruiz said.

"We were all taken in by Judie," Ruiz said. "She [said] she would not be doing this type of behavior anymore. We put these policies in place and she agreed to these policies, and she breached our trust."

[Maura Larkins' note: I'm not sure I believe Mr.Ruiz. I think Bud Simpson might be describing the situation more accurately:

"Judie pretty much had the board of directors eating
out of her hand," Simpson said. "She's done a pretty
good job for them and, as a result, she makes sure she
has the executive committee handpicked."

Simpson added that the general membership didn't
appear to care. "Just as long as you take care of us,
we'll forgive minor indiscretions," he said.]

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