Suit: Whistleblower alleges embezzlement at Portland union
A bookkeeper has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against SMART Local 16, alleging retaliation and wrongful firing after she discovered embezzlement at the union located in Gresham on Northeast 178th Avenue.
Zoe Hoyt now seeks nearly $800,000 from the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, Transportation Workers after filing a lawsuit on April 12 in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
The suit says shortly after she was hired in July 2019, Hoyt discovered "deeply concerning" irregularities in the financial logs, including a lack of monthly bank reconciliations and what the suit calls "dummy transactions" in the bookkeeping software.
The suit says Hoyt was encouraged by then-union boss Dustin Hysmith to work with a forensic accountant, and that she and the investigator jointly determined that the previous bookkeeper had "likely embezzled more than $190,000."
"The funds that this former bookkeeper embezzled came from the pockets of the Union's hard-working, dues-paying members, whose interests the Union exists to protect and represent," according to the nine-page suit.
The former bookkeeper — who later worked as the union's HR manager — resigned in October 2019, but received full payment for her unused vacation time and a "glowing letter of reference" written by union supervisor Charlie Johnson, according to the litigation.
"The Union's leadership had expressed a clear interest in covering up the financial malfeasance of its former employee, which would cause it substantial embarrassment, and which Ms. Hoyt's disclosures directly contravened," the suit says.
Due to the scandal, Local 16 was placed under trusteeship by SMART International and had fresh leaders installed, but Hoyt's new bosses imposed a series of impossible deadlines, according to the suit. Hoyt was then instructed to train a receptionist in bookkeeping before being laid off on June 2, 2020, by Hysmith and another employee who arrived at her home and demanded that she immediately return the office equipment she was using to work remotely.
SMART Local 16 did not respond to an email requesting comment. Pamplin Media is not identifying the bookkeeper accused of fraud at this time because court records show she has not been charged with any crime.
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