UAW official who is charged in corruption probe placed on leave

Eric D. Lawrence and Jamie L. LaReau, Detroit Free Press

DETROIT – The UAW regional director charged in a wide-ranging federal corruption probe has been placed on leave.

Vance Pearson, who heads a 17-state union region from Missouri to California and is charged with, among other things, embezzling union money, wire fraud and money laundering, began the leave on Friday. It comes as pressure has been building on the union to take action as high-ranking current and former officials, including President Gary Jones, have faced increasing scrutiny.

The scandal, which first broke into the open in 2017, has also been a distraction as the union tries to negotiate a new contract with General Motors and more than 46,000 workers remain on strike, although officials have been reporting progress of late.

The UAW, in a statement about Pearson, said his region will be overseen by officials in Detroit.

"The sole focus of the International Union, UAW, is to act in the best interest of the more than 400,000 UAW members across this country. We take all allegations seriously. For that reason, as of October 4, 2019, Vance Pearson began a leave of absence from the IUAW," the statement said.

Pearson could not be reached for comment.

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Pearson, 58, of St. Charles, Missouri, was the successor in Region 5 to Jones, whose house was among those raided by federal agents in August. A source has identified Jones as the official who had $30,000 seized from his home in Canton during the raids, which also targeted past President Dennis Williams.

The ongoing scandal first came to light in 2017 with indictments of former Fiat Chrysler Vice President Alphons Iacobelli and Monica Morgan, the widow of former UAW Vice President General Holiefield. The case at that time focused on misuse of millions of dollars meant for worker training but has since spread to focus on wider corruption.

Now the case has led to nine convictions, including of ex-UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell, and has entangled both FCA and General Motors through the joint training centers they operate with the union.

The news comes amid continued negotiations between the UAW and GM. The parties started talks around 9 a.m. Saturday and continued into the evening. They are expected to reconvene Sunday morning.

Follow Eric D. Lawrence on Twitter: @_ericdlawrence.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Vance Pearson: UAW official charged in corruption probe put on leave