By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Federal audit criticizes Totten’s leadership

Dan Totten

Former Boston Newspaper Guild president Dan Totten signed another union official’s name on his paycheck in order to circumvent a dispute involving unauthorized expenses Totten had rung up on his union credit card, according to an audit conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The results of the audit were laid out in a Nov. 17 letter from the Employment Standards Administration of the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) in the Department of Labor’s Boston office. The letter was sent to Patrice Sneyd, Guild treasurer. The Guild is the largest union at the Boston Globe, and was involved in a months-long dispute last year with the Globe’s corporate owner, the New York Times Co., over a management demand for $10 million in union givebacks.

The Guild removed Totten on Dec. 2 after allegations of improprieties arose. (See previous posts.) Totten has appealed his removal and maintained he did nothing wrong. The Department of Labor letter is a public document, but it was missing from the agency’s Web site until recently. (Read the entire letter.)

Although the letter lays out numerous deficiencies in Totten’s administration of union business, one of the more intriguing unanswered questions has involved allegations that Totten signed someone else’s name on his paycheck — an issue in the Guild’s decision to remove him. The letter offers an explanation.

According to the audit, Totten had charged $1,441 in expenses to his credit card without permission. After making some restitution, the letter says, Totten still owed $254. Here’s what happened next, according to the letter, in a section titled “Falsification of Union Records”:

It was further disclosed that BNG President Daniel Totten forged another officer’s name to Totten’s paycheck that was being withheld until receipts (or reimbursements) were turned into the union office for charges made to the union’s credit card.

The union should be aware that these activities constitute fiduciary violations…. While this matter will not be pursued further at this time, OLMS recommends that President Totten reimburse the union for the remaining outstanding unauthorized expenditures and that stricter internal checks and balances are put into place to avoid this occuring in the future.

The letter also details more than $5,000 in meals for union officers at places like The Fours, Siros Restaurant, Legal Seafood, and Joe’s American Bar and Grill, with no explanation given as to what if any union business was conducted. The letter further states that willful failure to maintain records properly can result in a fine of $100,000, a one-year prison term or both.

When the Guild removed Totten, some (including me) speculated that it might be retribution for the manner in which Totten botched negotiations with the New York Times Co.

The Department of Labor letter, though, demonstrates that irregularities under Totten’s leadership may have been significant.

I invite responses, especially from Totten, who, again, maintains he did nothing wrong.

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  1. Wilson Tisdale

    Interesting that other “union officers” (plural) ate at these restaurants.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Wilson Tisdale: The letter is a little hazy on that, so I’m not sure I’d make too much of that. It does say that Totten was the one who charged the meals.

  2. The Guild’s website still shows Totten as president; is that because he’s appealing the decision?

  3. Dan Kennedy

    @Jim Hopkins: Just speculation on my part, but my guess is that no one at the Guild cares about the Web site.

  4. Wilson Tisdale

    And, gee, couldn’t they have least picked decent restaurants?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Wilson: Given that list, I’m somewhat surprised that Applebee’s didn’t make the cut.

  5. Wilson Tisdale


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