J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees. (Keith Mellnick)

There’s more political intrigue in the largest federal employee union.

American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox Sr. has dismissed the elected officials of the union’s Labor Department unit over allegations of improper expenditures and failure to honor the votes of members.

In a memo last week to members of Local 12, Cox said he placed the unit in trusteeship because “it is essential that proper financial controls and democratic principles be restored.” He said the Local 12 officials “failed to abide by a vote of the Local membership, conducted in September 2016, regarding the establishment of an audit committee and the hiring of an outside vendor for conducting an audit.”

The alleged improper expenditures involved an $18,000 Hyatt Regency bill. Local 12 is one of the larger AFGE locals in the Washington area.

The leaders of the now-deposed unit said the move by Cox “failed to follow proper procedures” and was a political ploy to remove a potential challenger, Alex Bastani, who was Local 12 president.

“All said, there have been no financial or representational misdeeds,” said a statement from Eleanor Lauderdale, now Local 12’s former vice president. “There has simply been a sloppy coup d’état by AFGE National Office and District 14,” which covers the Washington area.

A spokesperson for the AFGE said it does not comment on internal union matters.

Cox’s action comes less than two months after the union’s National Executive Council ousted another duly elected official and a Cox political opponent, Eugene Hudson Jr. He was the national secretary-treasurer until he was booted in August for what union officials considered improper use of a staffer. The staff member sent an email to union members, at Hudson’s direction, that was critical of President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress.

Hudson has since announced his candidacy for Cox’s job.

Lauderdale attributed Cox’s latest move to Bastani’s possible run for national office. She cited a $7 million settlement with the Labor Department after an overtime dispute as an accomplishment that would bolster his candidacy. The Hyatt bill, she said, was for a luncheon at which the settlement funds were distributed to employees and retirees.

Alex Bastani until recently was president of Local 12 of the American Federation of Government Employees. (Kevin McCarron)

“Simply put,” Laurderdale said, “the award gave Mr. Bastani a very high profile, and he has previously run against both National AFGE President Cox and AFGE Vice President Bunn. AFGE officials do not want to run against anyone with a $7,000,000 settlement listed as an achievement.” Eric Bunn Sr. is national vice president of District 14.

Cox promised to appoint an “impartial hearing panel” to explore “the reason for the establishment of the trusteeship.”

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