(Adds comments by U.S. attorney, background on previous federal takeover of Teamsters)
By Ben Klayman
DETROIT, June 3 (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers still needs to reform and a federal takeover remains an option, the U.S. prosecutor leading the investigation of corruption within the union told Reuters on Wednesday after the UAW’s former president pleaded guilty to embezzlement.
“The union needs to change quite simply,” Matthew Schneider, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said in an interview, adding a possible takeover of the UAW “absolutely” remained an option.
“There’s a more urgent need to reform the union and fix it,” Schneider said. “I’m pretty much at the end of my patience.”
Former UAW president Gary Jones pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges he embezzled more than $1 million of union funds. Schneider said he wants to meet as soon as possible with UAW President Rory Gamble as the investigation moves into a “new stage.”
Gamble on Wednesday said the actions of Jones and others involved “were selfish, immoral and against everything we stand for as a union.”
UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said Gamble looks forward to meeting with Schneider.
“The UAW has made significant changes since Mr. Jones resigned and continues to look at ways to reform,” Rothenberg said.
In 1988, the U.S. Justice Department sued to force out senior leaders at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union and appointed a trustee because of the union’s connection to organized crime. The government oversaw the union from March 1989 until 2015, and a five-year transition period followed.
One option Schneider said he would like the UAW to explore is the direct election of officers to make them more accountable. UAW officers are currently elected through delegates.
Jones, 63, entered his guilty plea during a videoconference hearing held by the U.S. District Court in Detroit.
“I apologize to my UAW family for the betrayal of their trust and pray they will forgive me,” Jones said during the hearing.
Judge Paul Borman set a sentencing date of Oct. 6. Jones, who remains free on bail, agreed to cooperate with the government in the prosecution of others, which could lessen his sentence.
Jones, a certified public accountant, was charged with conspiracy to embezzle funds from the UAW from 2010 through September 2019, and with conspiracy to defraud the United States by failing to pay taxes on the money prosecutors charge he stole. He resigned from the union last November.
The sides agreed to a sentencing guideline range of 46 to 57 months for Jones. (Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler)