Going Postal

Is Judy Johnson trying to save APWU Local 172? Or is she part of the problem?

Johnson maintained she'd done nothing wrong, and had always worked in the membership's best interest. Even now, she said, facing expulsion, she is trying to save the union's building. She alleged Campbell and other union officers were paying themselves for unearned sick leave and not accounting for at least $500,000 in missing union money during the past four years.

She explained that the holding company and the union were supposed to split the costs of managing and maintaining the Scoreboard property. In addition to collecting the $764,000 in annual revenue from the site, Local 172 collects about $936,000 annually from 2900 dues-paying members (as opposed to overall postal workers). But, Johnson said, the holding company was paying all the debts. "That allowed the union to build up a treasury and have the resources to fight management," she added. "But I discovered the union treasury was down to nothing."

Johnson said Campbell cashed out a $100,000 certificate of deposit without her signature. She also accused the treasurer of improperly authorizing 45 days of unused sick pay to himself and two other union officers. "I got suspicious and began asking Edmund questions about where did all the money go," she said. "That's when he decided to come after Warren and I." Johnson added that she doesn't care if Local 172 ousts her permanently after her attempt to help the APWU save its building. During the Scoreboard confrontation, Johnson handed New Times copies of correspondence between her and loan officers at Commercial Bank in Miami, detailing a tentative agreement to refinance the union hall for $2.1 million and prevent the foreclosure. "The bank wants me as the signatory," she explained. "If I can get the closing through, the membership won't care about the other bullshit."

Judy Johnson, the feisty, erstwhile leader of APWU Local 172, says she's "being framed" for mismanaging union funds; it's her former allies on the exec board who are the corrupt ones, she alleges
Steve Satterwhite
Judy Johnson, the feisty, erstwhile leader of APWU Local 172, says she's "being framed" for mismanaging union funds; it's her former allies on the exec board who are the corrupt ones, she alleges

Campbell, however, along with union members Joe Brady and Dorothy Jenkins, recently filed for a court injunction to block Johnson, Pearlman, and the current board members of the holding company from speaking on behalf of One Seven Two. The injunction seeks to place the holding company in receivership. A court hearing was set for November 13, but Campbell withdrew the complaint based on a settlement with Johnson that will allow holding company VP Rick Mobley to sign the Commercial Bank loan on Johnson's behalf. Whether that will allow the union to save its building still remains to be seen. But Campbell, a plump black man with a Che-style beard, said the union still plans to hold Johnson and Pearlman accountable for mismanaging union funds.

"That will be addressed in the proper forum," he said. Ex-Johnson backer Santana added: "This is a very delicate situation. Until she has her day in court, we have to respect her privacy."

But in sworn affidavits filed in court, Brady, Campbell, and Jenkins throw Johnson under the bus. All three swear they became aware that she and Pearlman were, at the very least, mismanaging union funds sometime last summer, when it is alleged they began avoiding calls from vendors and creditors.

On October 16 Fans, Inc., and its owner Ronaldo Rosa sued Johnson and the holding company, alleging Johnson breached a contract for One Seven Two to buy Scoreboard from Rosa last year for $150,000. According to the lawsuit, filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, One Seven Two owes Fans roughly $48,000 for the bar and the soccer fields behind it.

Joaquin Molina, a lawyer who represented Rosa in the transaction, claimed his client spent roughly $200,000 improving the bar and stocking it with liquor. And another $100,000 adding soccer fields. Both were good sources of revenue, the soccer fields alone grossing $15,000 a week, Molina said. "She began to harass my client about eviction," he said. "He didn't feel comfortable so he agreed to let her buy him out."

Molina didn't know the union's property was facing foreclosure. "Now it looks like no one is going to get their money," he said. Others suing the holding company and Johnson include Banco America Central (BAC) Florida Bank, and WLS, a real estate brokerage firm that has been trying to collect a $65,000 court judgment against the holding company. Johnson said both the bank and WLS would get paid once the building is refinanced. She went further: She claimed that she is using her Kendall condo and her 1999 Ford Mustang as collateral on a $119,000 loan from a friend to pay off BAC(!).

The straw that broke the camel's back, Campbell and the others say, was the resignation of the union's in-house counsel Lisa Ann Spring early last month. Spring, they allege, resigned based on advice from the Florida Bar that she risked disciplinary action based on the shenanigans of Johnson and Pearlman. Spring also allegedly informed the three union officers that the building was in foreclosure as a result of Johnson's financial mismanagement.

Thus, Johnson and Pearlman's temporary suspension on October 15. Johnson appeared to have conceded defeat, admitting that she probably has no chance of saving her union presidency because her access to union members has been cut off.

"I'm just happy," Johnson swore, "that we're going to save the building."

Of course, whoever saves the building looks like a heroine to the membership.

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