Dennis Williams, former president of the United Auto Workers, pleaded guilty to a single federal criminal charge of conspiring with other UAW officials to embezzle funds from the union.
The guilty plea leaves Williams’ facing up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. However, federal sentencing guidelines indicate that Williams is facing a potential prison sentence of 18 moths to 24 month plus restitution.
Williams already has returned $56,114 to the UAW to cover the cost of lodging at expensive resorts around Palm Springs, California, given to him illicitly under the embezzlement scheme operated by former UAW president Gary Jones, who is now awaiting sentencing on charges that he stole more than $1 million in union funds with help from officials from the UAW regional office in St. Louis, Missouri. Williams also has agreed to pay an additional $15,459 in federal income taxes on tax returns filed for the years 2013 to 2018.
During a hearing in which he entered his pleas, Williams, who held top roles in the union first as Secretary-Treasurer and then as president from 2010 to 2018, acknowledged he had been derelict in his duty when he accepted lengthy stays in southern California, as well as a set of golf clubs, cigars and liquor.
In his statement that UAW Region 5, which stretched from the Mississippi River to California, customarily held a lavish conference each winter in Palm Springs for several years under Jim Wells then under Jones, when he was regional director, Williams noted.
“I asked Gary Jones about it, but he said everything was above board,” Williams said during the court hearing, which was held via Zoom. Williams said while he had his doubts about Jones’ explanations, he quite deliberately elected to accept them.
“I could have investigated or had someone on my staff investigate. But I deliberately looked away,” said Williams, who was serving as UAW president in 2017 when scandal first appeared in another section of the union as federal investigators filed corruption charges against officials from both Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. and the union.
At the time, Williams told reporters the union planned to cooperate with federal authorities and take steps to reform union practices that led the criminal activity.
In addition to not investigating the lavish spending in southern California, which had developed into a regular feature of union activity with help not only of dues money but also money from FCA, the spending also had a major impact on the union’s leadership.
During the closed internal deliberations to choose Williams successor as president, the administration caucus, which has run the union for more than 70 years and is now deeply implicated in the corruption that has wracked the union, selected Jones to become the UAW’s next president despite his relative inexperience in negotiations with major employers.
Rory Gamble, who became UAW president when Jones resigned last December, has vowed to reform the union. But so far has taken no steps to reduce the influence of the administrative caucus, which continues to dominate the union’s internal politics.
In a statement, the UAW said, “Former UAW President Dennis Williams has pled guilty to serious infractions, and in doing so put his personal and self-interest above that of our members and this Union.
“These serious charges deserve serious legal consequences as they violate the oath of UAW officers and they violate the trust of UAW officers to handle our members’ sacred dues money.
Earlier this summer the UAW’s International Executive Board took action to stop payment of Williams’ legal fees. Subsequently the UAW demanded Williams fully resign from his membership with the Union or face charges under Article 31 of the UAW Constitution to remove him from our membership.
On Sept. 18, 2020, pursuant to that demand from the International Executive Board, Williams resigned his UAW membership effective immediately.
The UAW Williams will be required to repay the UAW for all legal fees paid by the union of more than $230,000, or face legal action, and Williams will be required to repay any further Union funds he wrongly took or misspent, the union statement said.