Former Machinists president alleges defamation in lawsuits against union

Former District 70 Machinists president Frank Molina listens to a question during a September 2015 news conference.
Former District 70 Machinists president Frank Molina listens to a question during a September 2015 news conference. File photo

The former president and another former officer of the District 70 Machinists union have filed lawsuits against the district, the International Association of Machinists and several of its officers for wrongful termination, breach of contract, and defamation.

The lawsuits were filed by former District 70 president Frank Molina Jr. and Becky Ledbetter on March 14 in Sedgwick County District Court. According to a union website Ledbetter was a business representative for District 70.

The lawsuits follow the international union’s assumption of the operations of District 70 in February, in which Machinists International President Robert Martinez Jr. said in a letter to union members he was placing the district under trusteeship after he was “informed … the Lodge is operating in a manner that is threatening the good and the welfare of the membership.”

Martinez said in the Feb. 2 letter that specific “events or occurrences” led to the trusteeship, including “mass overspending” and “no proper approval for Lodge expenses.”

Those named as defendants in the lawsuit are: International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; District Lodge 70 of IAMAW; Southern Territory of IAMAW; Martinez; IAM Aerospace Coordinator Tony Blevins; IAM Southern Territory general vice president Mark Blondin; and IAM spokesman Frank Larkin.

Molina’s and Ledbetter’s lawsuits allege the district lodge and the union have specific procedures to follow in terminating an employee, and that those procedures weren’t followed in their terminations.

“There were allegations of mass overspending, no proper approval for Lodge expenses and failure to work with the Deputy supervising the Lodge, which were and are erroneous,” court documents said.

Molina and Ledbetter also allege that “specific processes and procedures to consider termination … were blatantly not followed and breached” their employment contracts with the union, documents said.

Finally, Molina and Ledbetter allege they “suffered severe humiliation and respect, loss of … employment, loss of respect to … family friends and community and has been defamed” by remarks made by IAM officials through traditional and social media.

“On or after February 2, 2016 Frank Larkin and other named defendants stated to the news media that the plaintiff has misappropriated and mismanaged funds which was untrue, and otherwise defamed the plaintiff,” court documents said.

Larkin said on Monday that neither he nor the IAM would comment on the lawsuits.

Both lawsuits are seeking more than $75,000 in damages.

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark