A labor union president was arrested and charged on Tuesday after allegedly taking $20,000 in bribes from a St. Louis attorney assisting in a federal investigation.
Edward W. Rodzwicz, the president of the Brotherhood of the Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, was charged with one federal count of bribery and one count of the use of interstate travel to carry on unlawful activity. The BLET is a division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Court documents do not identify the attorney who assisted in the investigation. The attorney was allegedly solicited by Rodzwicz to pay him money in exchange for the attorney remaining on union’s list of designated attorneys.
BLET maintains a list of designated legal counsel, which recommends to its members attorneys that can handle injury cases under the Federal Employees Liability Act. As a result, designated lawyers receive referrals from BLET.
The organization’s Web site names about 35 attorneys across the United States on its Designated Legal Counsel list.
According to an affidavit filed by Special Agent John Borders, the attorney cooperating with the government was involved in a dispute with another designated counsel. That lawyer accused the cooperating attorney of contacting clients already represented by the designated counsel – a violation of the DLC rules of conduct. The Designated Legal Counsel Compliance Committee agreed the attorney violated ethical rules and recommended that the lawyer’s designation be revoked. But the final decision to preserve or revoke designations lay with Rodzwicz as president.
Rodzwicz and the attorney met in Little Rock, Ark., in March to discuss the attorney’s designation, and at that time Rodzwicz said he wanted an “envelope” to keep the attorney on the designated counsel list, the affidavit said. After the meeting, the attorney contacted the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Labor concerning the bribe.
St. Louis designated counsel, Joseph Bauer, of Bauer & Baebler, said he was shocked to learn of Rodzwicz’s arrest in the news. He said he had heard of a complaint being made against a local counsel for contacting another counsel’s clients but had not heard of a subsequent investigation. He declined to name the attorney against whom the complaint was made, citing the federal investigation.
Rodzwicz and the unnamed attorney met at his St. Louis law office, then later in Las Vegas and Kansas City where Rodzwicz allegedly received two separate $10,000 cash payments from the attorney, the affidavit said.
The BLET’s Web site lists three designated lawyers in St. Louis: Bauer, Jerome Schlichter, of Schlichter, Bogard & Denton; and Dennis Rathmann, of Rathmann Law Offices. Both Bauer and Schlichter denied any involvement in the investigation. Rathmann declined to comment.
However, given that the attorney’s designated counsel status was in jeopardy, it the attorney that assisted in the investigation may not be listed on the Web site.
Rodzwicz, 63, of Avon, Ohio, faces one federal bribery charge in connection with a federally funded program and one federal charge of the use of interstate travel to carry on unlawful activity. The charges were filed in U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Missouri last week but remained suppressed until Rodzwicz was arrested on Tuesday. He made his initial appearance in Cleveland.
Rodzwicz faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for each count.
John Bentley, spokesman for the BLET, declined to comment, and Leigh Strope, spokeswoman for the Teamsters, said the organization had no statement at this time. No attorney has entered his appearance on Rodzwicz’s behalf, according to court documents, and no telephone listing for Rodzwicz could be located.