Tyrone Freeman, big spender

The Times' Paul Pringle weighed in Saturday with an investigative piece saying that the SEIU-affiliated United Long-Term Care Workers local headed by Tyrone Freeman, and a related charity, have been more than a little wild with their lavish spending and bestowing of riches on his friends and relatives.

The Los Angeles-based union, which represents low-wage caregivers, also spent nearly $300,000 last year on a Four Seasons Resorts golf tournament, a Beverly Hills cigar club, restaurants such as Morton's steakhouse and a consulting contract with the William Morris Agency, the Hollywood talent shop, records show.

In addition, the union paid six figures to a video firm whose principals include a former union employee. And a now-defunct minor league basketball team coached by the president's brother-in-law received $16,000 for what the union described as public relations, according to the union's U.S. Labor Department filings and interviews.

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A rising star in labor circles, Freeman, 38, said the union's members have benefited from the money spent on the video production and day-care companies that his wife and mother-in-law operate at their homes, because of what he termed the high quality of the services. The union and the charity have paid those firms at least $405,700 since January 2006, not counting any outlays this year.

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The local's nearly $10,000 tab at the Grand Havana Room, a cigar lounge known for its celebrity clientele and invitation-only memberships, was for "lodging," according to the union's annual financial report. A Grand Havana spokeswoman said the club does not provide accommodations. Freeman declined to characterize the expenditure, and after The Times inquired about it, he said he had refunded it.

"Every expenditure has been in the context of fighting poverty," Freeman said, denying any impropriety.


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