Getting Right With Tom Newbery

Ideas and Issues Personal Writings

Baton Rouge Sitting in a Local 100 Leadership School in Baton Rouge at our hall I saw an email come across that looked like it was a message from Tom Newbery, a long time comrade, that I had lost touch with during a mess in Los Angeles. The bottom line of his message was all some very, very good news, but there are rough patches on this road, and some of them I may have inadvertently stepped into as well.

Tom wrote me to make sure there was a correction to the blog I wrote about Martin Ludlow’s plea bargaining in Los Angeles around March 7, 2006. In that blog I had mourned the “confessions” of Ludlow as he copped out and resigned as President of the Los Angeles AFL-CIO. He had tried to implicate an undercover deal he allegedly made with Janett Humphries, head of SEIU Local 99, in the schools at that time. I mentioned in the blog that SEIU had trusted Local 99 and booted out Janett and Tom Newbery. I mentioned that Tom had been a long time friend with a great phone operation.

Here’s Tom’s note from today and the good news that he not only was exonerated, but in fact was never accused (except by Ludlow!), never called as a witness (though sued by Janett to try and shift the burden), and in fact was represented by SEIU’s lawyer despite the fact that he was also washed out of the local by the trusteeship imposed by SEIU.

He says it better than I ever good, so I include his entire note below:

I am writing this in response to your web post dated March 6, 2006 Trippin up in Los Angeles.

The trial is over, Humphries was convicted on all counts. Your characterization that I was involved in illegal activities is flat out not true.

My activities were thoroughly investigated by SEIU, The LA Ethics Commission, the LA County attorney and, the Department of Labor.

SEIU provided me counsel with the understanding that if there were any criminal charges brought against me that I was o my own.

The Humphries defense team issued a press release on or near the date of her arraignment stating that I was the one responsible for the illegal activity. They also filed a 5 million dollar lawsuit against me and her administrative assistant in an effort to shift responsibility.

As it turned out, the phone banks were never a part of the criminal charges. Despite an aggressive investigation by all the parties mentioned above. Any work done on Ludlow’s behalf was either paid for by the campaign or was part of in independent campaign waged by the County Fed.

The lawsuit was challenged by SEIU counsel and was found to be frivolous.

Furthermore, I was never called as a prosecution witness at the Humphries trial. I asked Bob Weinberg, SEIU provided counsel, why they had not called me. His answer was that the investigations had concluded that I had not been involved in the illegal activity and that I had no direct knowledge of them at the time that they were taking place.

The defense did subpoena me in an effort to prove their theory that I was responsible. They never called me to testify.

When I became aware of the illegal activity I confronted both Janett and Ludlow. Janett, in person, and, Ludlow and Janett by phone. I also called the union’s counsel the day I became aware and asked her to advise Janett on the implications of her activity with Ludlow. I understand this was corroborated at the trial.

If you like I can give you Bob Weinberg’s email and you can check the veracity of my statements in this letter.

Martin Ludlow knowingly took advantage of Janett. I feel sorry for her.

I’m sure there’s a lot of crap out there about me and Local 99.. But your post hit a sore spot – I have great respect for you and your work.

The last three years have been tough for Mandy and I. We made it with help from family and friends.

I hope you and your family are doing well.

I was delighted at Tom’s good news and to hear from him, and I was horrified that he felt that I had pointed a finger at him and in some way accused him of illegal activity. I looked up the blog and what the blog said was the following:

"Ludlow agreed that he had been involved in an "okey-dokey" deal with the political operations run by SEIU Local 99, the giant school support workers local in Los Angeles. The phone and political operations were run by Tom Newbery, an old friend. Tom had been a community organizer with the Citizens’ Action League in the mid-1970’s. We had worked with him during those days trying to help on some payroll and tax problems. We had known Tom when he migrated to SEIU. His phone trucks were amazing. They had made
calls for us. Ludlow admitted getting a bunch of help under the table from Tom and Local 99.

A couple of years ago SEIU trusteed Local 99 and booted out Tom and the President, Janett Humphreys. She was now being indicted on two counts for the same mess and has vowed to fight. I sat with her at SEIU board meetings of various types on many a day. She was also accused of having padded her accounts, charged off airplane tickets and stuff for fancy affairs. She never seemed the type."

So, I thought I was doing right by Tom, but clearly Tom felt differently, and now that everything has gone from manure to roses for him, I am delighted to not only eat crow, if I’ve got some coming, but to make sure that people know that Tom was clean as a whistle and was simply collateral damage to the train wreck that Martin Ludlow and Janett Humphries seemed to be driving.

There is a lot that we could all say about the criminal justice system (NOT!) in this country and the way that people, their lives, and families (as Tom points out!) can get caught up and, even when innocent, get hurt by this even when innocent. I understand too well why my comments — those of a friend and comrade — may not have been the finger pointing and accusations that he indicated, but neither was this the stand-up comments that a friend would (should!) make, and that he would have wanted and needed in this situation. That’s no doubt what hurt him in reading my blog. Not what was said there probably, but what should have been said.

And, he’s right, and I’m sorry for that, and his story is a lesson for me at least and maybe a lot of other people in this work!