CWA removes NJ workers union boss

July 7, 2008 7:06:22 PM PDT
The Communications Workers of America's national executive board has removed the head of the union's largest local - a New Jersey state worker leader who also used to be Gov. Jon S. Corzine's girlfriend. The board voted unanimously Monday to suspend Carla Katz and the governing board of Local 1034, claiming financial malpractice and suppression of dissent among the local's 16,000 members, 10,000 of whom are state workers.

The national has appointed a regional staff member to oversee the local for now. A decision has yet to be made on Katz's pay.

"We hope this will refocus the local on the day-to-day operations, rather than a lot of the drama that has surrounded this local in the last couple of years," said CWA spokesman Bob Master.

CWA officials said the suspension was the result of an internal investigation that Katz had previously criticized publicly, going as far as to file a federal lawsuit alleging retaliation on the part of the union.

Katz said Monday's action was more of the same.

"This action by the National union is appalling and the charges against our Local's leadership are completely false," she said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "It is a travesty that the retaliation against me, and my fellow union leaders, for our opposition to the bad state worker deal, continues in full force. The National's baseless and extreme action, done without any notice, tramples the democratic rights of the members of our union under the deceptive guise of protecting democracy."

Katz, 49, has led CWA Local 1034 since 1999 and been a member for 26 years. She gained notoriety during Corzine's successful 2005 gubernatorial run when it was revealed that he had paid off the mortgage on her house and given her other gifts they have refused to disclose. Katz and Corzine dated from 2002 to 2004 while Corzine was a U.S. senator.

Corzine is fighting in state courts to keep private e-mails that he exchanged with Katz during state worker contract talks in 2006 and 2007.

Katz has claimed in her lawsuit that it was her opposition to the contract eventually negotiated by the national that spurred the national to investigate her.

The CWA said its investigation found evidence of several violations of the union's constitution and bylaws, alleging that:

- Katz used union funds to fund her unsuccessful election campaign for a national union vice presidency, including paying expenses for people to campaign for her.

- Katz spent union money without oversight from the local's officers or board, including more than $700,000 in political campaign contributions made between October 2005 and May 2008.

- The local's executive board suspended a board member who voiced concerns about local policies and expenditures.

- Katz threatened a dissident member's employment and engaged in other retaliatory conduct.

- Katz failed to keep time records to show what she was doing as local president.

Master said the union for now is not forwarding the matter to law enforcement.


Associated Press writer Samantha Henry in Trenton contributed to this story.