Federal investigators are looking into the city's powerful correction officers' union and its financial dealings, a probe that is putting pressure on union president Norman Seabrook. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
William Valentin says he is not surprised the U.S. attorney's office is investigating his union, which represents the city's 9,000 correction officers.
Valentin sued union president Norman Seabrook earlier this year. He says Seabrook unlawfully ousted him from the union board.
"He removed me because I was outspoken," Valentin said. "I objected, I questioned, and he doesn't like that. He's a tyrant."
Valentin says he was asking questions about the union's finances. He has accused Seabrook of investing at least $5 million of union money into a troubled hedge fund without union board approval. Federal investigators are reportedly looking into that investment.
Seabrook did not respond to requests for comment. The law firm representing the union said in a statement, "We understand that the United States Attorney's Office has issued subpoenas to vendors of the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association. We are cooperating fully with the United States Attorney's Office."
The U.S. attorney also sued the city for what it says is a pattern of brutality and force being used against inmates.
This federal investigation is only the latest blow to the union, and to the correction system as a whole. The city's Department of Investigation has found problems with the process for hiring correction workers and with security. An undercover agent last year was able to smuggle drugs and other contraband into Rikers Island six times.
"It may be time for people to consider someone else to chair that union, for people to look at different leadership," said City Councilman Daniel Dromm of Queens. "All of these things do not bode well for the correction officers."
So far, the politically savvy and connected Seabrook has managed to stay in control. He is quick to defend his members.
"Those individuals that write the stories, God bless them. God bless them. But until they walk in the shoes of a New York City correction officer, don't judge us," Seabrook said in January.
The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment.