- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2002

With all the welcome fury over the plight of people whose retirement accounts contained Enron stock, another accounting scandal affecting workers has so far been overlooked.

The accounting firm of Thomas Havey LLP allegedly helped a international union official conceal his daughter's embezzlement from an employee benefit fund. Havey is not as big as Arthur Andersen was a few months ago, but it does dominate the accounting market for labor unions and related organizations. Among its clients are the Teamsters, Laborers, Hotel and Restaurant Employees, Service Employees and the Communications Workers.

Raymond Robertson, the now-former vice president of the Iron Workers, on April 11 became the sixth individual to plead guilty in the scandal that is currently enveloping the Iron Workers and its employee benefit funds.

Through several schemes, Robertson embezzled or helped cover up embezzlements of well over $100,000 from the National Ironworkers and Employers Apprenticeship Training and Journeyman Upgrading Fund, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District. In addition to his union post, Robertson served as executive director and a trustee of this Fund.

One of the schemes involved the Havey firm and began in January 1999, when its accountants audited the fund. At that time, Robertson's daughter, Kerry Tresselt, worked as the fund's bookkeeper. After being tipped off by a staffer about Tresselt's possible misuse of the fund's payroll account, a Havey accountant reportedly found that payroll checks had been issued to Tresselt's husband, Andrew, even though he had not been working for the fund.

Next, the Havey partner in charge of the audit allegedly informed Robertson that Tresselt was having payroll checks issued in the name of Andrew Tresselt. Reportedly, Kerry Tresselt stole more than $33,000 via these bogus hours, which even included overtime.

Despite learning in January 1999 that Kerry Tresselt had stolen the money, Robertson and the Havey partner allegedly failed to disclose the thefts to the other trustees of the fund. Further, in February 1999, Robertson and the partner affirmatively told the other trustees that the funds' accounts were in good order, according to prosecutors. Havey's clean bill of health continued until May 2001.

As a result of this and other schemes, Robertson was charged with and pleaded guilty to eight felony counts of conspiracy, aiding and abetting embezzlement and embezzlement. He agreed to pay a $30,000 fine and $103,170 in restitution. Included in his embezzlement amount was a $1,480 flagpole for the personal residence of Jacob "Jake" West, the Iron Workers' president emeritus who is awaiting his own embezzlement trial and has been recently linked to the insider-trading scandal at a union-dominated insurance company called Ullico Inc.

Additionally, Robertson's daughter pleaded guilty in November 2001 to four counts of conspiracy and embezzlement. She admitted to embezzling more than $350,000 from the fund. There has been no report that Robertson's son-in-law has been charged.

Nor have prosecutors announced any charges against anyone at Thomas Havey. Yet, the accounting firm's alleged conduct and involvement raises troubling issues. The firm currently enjoys a pervasive presence in the market for labor union and employee benefit fund accounting services.

According to its web site, Havey is the auditor for "over 700 collectively bargained, multi-employer and single-employer plans with total assets of over $42 billion." The firm brags, "Labor is our specialty. [Our firm] is proud of its long and rewarding association with the organized labor movement." Havey claims that it is "extremely knowledgeable" with regard to the Department of Labor's "hot spots." It pledges to would-be clients that should a union's disclosure forms be selected for examination, its "professionals are available to represent your organization with the objective of making the process as painless as possible."

Maybe it is time for a little pain. Companies whose books are prepared by Arthur Andersen are being forced to review and defend them. Labor unions audited by Havey should be forced to do the same thing. Furthermore, the Labor Department, which has the discretion to determine which unions it audits, should increase its scrutiny of any union employing the "services" of Thomas Havey LLP.

Ken Boehm is chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center.

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