One of California’s largest unions has new leadership after its former director learned she’s facing several felony charges.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed 14 felony charges, including tax fraud, embezzlement and perjury, against Service Employees International Union Local 721 Director Alma Hernández.
Bonta said in the Oct. 4 filing Hernández had been on his radar since June 2019, when the California Fair Political Practices Commission found suspicious payments to her husband.
Hernández's husband, Samoyoa Moscoso, is a party to the charges. Bonta alleges Hernández embezzled $11,700 from a political action committee she steered as treasurer in 2014 by writing checks to her husband for services rendered when nothing was done. The charges say the couple underreported its income by $1.4 million, avoiding more than $143,000 in taxes and shirking more than $80,000 in unemployment taxes owed by Moscoso’s air duct cleaning business.
Once news of the charges broke, Hernández resigned from her post at SEIU.
“We are deeply concerned about the allegations against Alma Hernández. We have accepted Ms. Hernández’s resignation, and we have cooperated fully with authorities on this matter and will continue to do so,” the union said Wednesday in a statement. “Any misuse of funds is unacceptable, and we are committed to doubling down on our efforts to ensure that all officers and staff adhere to the highest level of ethical and financial conduct.”
The union announced Tia Orr, SEIU’s chief lobbyist in Sacramento, would take Hernández’s place.
Legislative Democrats, many of whom have benefitted from the union’s millions of dollars in political donations over the years, tweeted strikingly similar messages Wednesday.
“The labor movement’s strength comes from members united to fight for fairness [and] justice,” tweeted Assembly Member Ash Kalra, D-San Jose. “With Tia Orr as its new Interim Executive Director, [SEIU California] will not miss a beat.”
Sen. David Cortese, another San Jose Democrat, tweeted an identical message.
Timothy Snowball, a civil rights attorney with the nonprofit Freedom Foundation, said the charges against Hernández aren’t surprising when considering the self-serving nature of public-sector union leaders.
“The charges against Hernández are only the latest evidence that the leaders of government unions like SEIU California are more interested in lining their own pockets than with advocating for their members, who now must decide whether they are willing to continue paying into such an inherently corrupt scheme,” he said. “Now it’s clear the problem was worse than anyone knew.”