Published July 27, 2012
Sen. Orrin Hatch is pressing a member of the National Labor Relations Board for answers on his past ties to a controversial union after Fox News and others reported on the group's extensive criminal past.
In a letter sent last week to NLRB member Richard Griffin, the Utah Republican senator flagged the charges, "ranging from racketeering and embezzlement to workplace sabotage and crimes of violence," faced by members of the International Union of Operating Engineers.
The IUOE, a union of heavy equipment operators, is where Griffin previously served as general counsel. Hatch cited recent reporting by Fox News and others about union members' criminal past in questioning Griffin on his own involvement.
"While it appears that you did not directly represent any accused members or officials of IUOE locals in these proceedings, these reports raise questions regarding your tenure at the union," Hatch wrote.
Hatch asked Griffin about his role in a slew of cases involving union members and associates. Hatch and other Republicans are also annoyed over the fact that Griffin was installed via recess appointment -- meaning President Obama named him to the seat without a Senate vote.
Hatch said in his letter he does not consider the appointment to be "legitimate," and complained about the lack of public vetting.
"Under normal circumstances, such matters would properly be explored during Senate confirmation hearings," he said. "However, because of President Obama's decision to bypass the Senate with respect to your nomination, the Senate has not had an opportunity to fully examine either your record or your qualifications."
Hatch, in protest of the recess appointment, actually sent the letter to Griffin's old union office and not the NLRB.
But Griffin caught wind of it anyway. An NLRB spokesman, without going into detail, said Griffin is preparing a response to Hatch.
Public documents obtained by Fox News show that more than 60 IUOE members have been arrested, indicted or jailed in the last decade on charges that include labor racketeering, extortion, criminal enterprise, bodily harm and workplace sabotage.
In some of the more egregious examples, federal prosecutors alleged in February 2003 that the Genovese and Colombo crime families wrested control of two IUOE locals, and stole $3.6 million from major New York area construction projects -- including the Museum of Modern Art and minor league baseball stadiums for the Yankees and Mets in Staten and Coney Islands.
Congress and the American public may never know whether Griffin's fiduciary responsibilities as general counsel were compromised by the avalanche of arrests, indictments and prosecutions of IUOE members.
Before joining the NLRB, he served in various positions at the IUOE dating back to 1983.
Griffin was sworn in for the NLRB post in January of this year.
Fox News' Doug McKelway contributed to this report.