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Former North Shore AFL-CIO head Dan O'Malley appeals his expulsion

North Shore Federation of Labor executive secretary Dan O'Malley talks with media after the AFL-CIO endorsed Dennis Kucinich for Cleveland mayor in 2021.
Nick Castele
Ideastream Public Media
North Shore Federation of Labor executive secretary Dan O'Malley talks with media after the AFL-CIO endorsed Dennis Kucinich for Cleveland mayor in 2021.

Dan O’Malley, the former head of the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, Northeast Ohio’s biggest labor organization, has filed an appeal of his dismissal.

O’Malley was found by the executive board to have violated the organization’s policies on the use of its credit card and was fired for it last month. He was accused by the board of making personal purchases using the organization’s credit card, with the board voting 12 to 4, with one abstention, to remove him from office.

O'Malley's attorney, Steve Dever, said O’Malley was was not afforded due process in the organization’s hearing against him, with important information never disclosed that would have helped his defense. O’Malley and North Shore AFL-CIO also disagree on the amount owed, with O’Malley paying about $2,300 back, while his attorney alleges the federation actually owes him at least $7,500 for business expenses he paid out of his own pocket. Shari Obrenski, executive board chair, who is also the Cleveland Teachers Union president, denies that claim.

According to a copy of the executive board’s findings in the case against O’Malley, the board said he admitted to not keeping good records of business versus personal expenses made using the card. On three separate occasions, the board alleged O’Malley issued checks to attempt to pay back those personal expenses, but they bounced. O’Malley told the board that was due to overdraft protection he had on his account.

“On one hand, despite his admitted mistakes, Mr. O’Malley has provided some good service to the Federation, and the labor movement often advocates for giving employees a second chance when they make mistakes,” the report read. “On the other hand, the labor movement does not tolerate the use (of) members’ dues money to pay for personal expenses, especially when it involves a high-ranking elected officer.”

Dever said North Shore AFL-CIO did not have good recordkeeping or expenditure policies in place for O’Malley to know exactly what he should have been doing. The executive report confirms the federation “does not have an expense policy or a credit card use policy” but notes multiple occasions where O’Malley was told not to use the business card for personal expenses.

Dever also noted some of the allegations of questionable conduct against O’Malley – who is gay - centered around his attendance at LGBTQ+-focused establishments.

“The motivation for this whole episode is based on some personal animosity of some federation members who challenged the way that he performs his job and the establishments and groups that he was supportive of,” Dever said.

Dever noted some of the expenditures called into question related to Twist Social Club, a bar and night club focused on serving the LGBTQ+ community, attached to the Landmark Smokehouse in Lakewood. Dever said deeper investigation was never done on those expenditures to determine if they were coming from meals or business meetings happening at the attached restaurant. He said expenditures related to The Fieldhouse at Studio West 117 – home to an LGBTQ+-centric community recreation and wellness center – were also called into question.

Dever said O’Malley was instrumental in helping bring on union contract workers to that development project.

Shari Obrenski, executive board president, denied that O’Malley’s sexual orientation had anything to do with the board’s findings.

“That was not something that we found to be at issue during our deliberations, and we categorically reject that there was any bias involved in the board’s decision to terminate Mr. O’Malley,” she said.

North Shore AFL-CIO represents 146 local labor unions and 85,000 members in Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga Counties. The appeal would be voted on by roughly 400 delegates of the organization.

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.