A mentor of Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher wants back on to the payroll of the troubled San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, raising conflict of interest questions regarding his current gig on the board of the San Diego County Water Authority and big cash from the Teamsters local that bargains for the authority’s workers.
Jerry Butkiewicz, whose daughter was a childhood friend of Gonzalez Fletcher, tutored the future assemblywoman in the rough-and-tumble ways of union politics here before handing the labor council reins to her and moving on to become workforce readiness manager at utility giant Sempra Energy in 2008.
Last October, after departing his Sempra gig, the onetime postal workers union honcho was named to the water authority board by San Diego Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer.
Earlier this year, Butkiewicz was in the running to become a consultant for Sempra subsidiary SDG&E’s independent marketing division, Sempra Services Corporation, battling efforts to limit the utility's monopoly on electricity delivery.
A February 6 advice letter from the Fair Political Practices Commission held then that if he took the utility job, Butkiewicz would be barred from voting on contracts between the water authority and SDG&E.
Then in May, Butkiewicz was tapped by the national AFL-CIO to become a trustee of the labor council following the ouster of Mickey Kasparian, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135, in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal.
Now Butkiewicz's latest arrangement has created a host of new questions for the Fair Practices Commission to answer regarding his water authority role. "Mr. Butkiewicz has been offered part-time employment with the [labor council] for a monthly salary in the range of $2,000 and $2,500," notes a July 12 FPPC letter. "Based on the questions in the request, it appears that he may be offered per diem and travel reimbursements in the future."
Meanwhile, water authority workers represented by Teamsters Local 911, a member of the Labor Council, are gearing up to negotiate an extension of their contract. "Teamsters Local 911 represents various Water Authority employee groups including Technical Support Group, Professional Administrative Group, and Managerial Supervisory Group. Its purpose is to advocate terms and conditions of employment for its members, and it is primarily funded through collection of union dues paid by its members.
"As a member of the Labor Council, Teamsters Local 911 contributes union dues to the Council. Mr. Butkiewicz believes that Teamsters Local 911 contributes only a small portion of the Labor Council dues, in the amount of approximately one half of one percent of the overall Labor Council funding."
Per the letter, the current memorandum of understanding between the water district and the Teamsters expires at the end of June 2019, with renegotiations expected to commence by next year. 'The Water Authority's Board of Directors appoints its negotiators to conduct union negotiations, and must approve the MOU before it can go into effect," notes the FPPC.
But, unlike in the case of his putative consulting job at SDG&E, Butkiewicz has a gotten a green light from the FPPC to participate in all aspects of the process.
"It does not appear likely or realistic that Mr. Butkiewicz's remuneration from the Labor Council would alter in any way as the result of negotiations between the Water Authority and the Teamsters Local 911," the letter says.
"It is unlikely that any decision regarding the Teamsters Local 911 would increase or decrease the amount of Labor Council dues it pays, and then result in the Labor Council experiencing a measurable financial gain or loss. Such a financial effect is not reasonably foreseeable. Therefore, Mr. Butkiewicz will not have a conflict of interest under the Act."