California union leader spent $3,000 for security sweep at Sacramento headquarters

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The president of California’s largest state employee union offered an explanation Wednesday for a charge to his SEIU Local 1000 credit card that had been a mystery since he posted a swath of union spending information online two weeks ago.

SEIU Local 1000 President Richard Louis Brown charged $3,000 to his card on July 5, six days into his term. The charge, identified in an invoice only as DBM, was connected to an address in Irvine listing two businesses — a spa and a private investigator. Brown said in a livestreamed Facebook presentation that the charge was to DBM Private Investigator.

He said he hired the investigator to sweep the union’s headquarters building in midtown Sacramento for electronic surveillance equipment, fearing for his safety weeks after police arrived at his home in what he has said was an attempt on his life.

Derrick Taylor, the business’s owner, on Friday described the service he provided as a general risk management analysis of the building.

Taylor said he checked the building’s locks, looked for any openings where someone could break in and assessed risks to files. He said he suggested some changes to locks for Brown’s office and an office containing files, but that in general he didn’t find many flaws in the building’s security.

“A lot of people these days want a company like mine to perform these kinds of services,” he said.

Sacramento police visit

About 5 a.m. on May 25, police knocked on Brown’s door in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood, the Sacramento Police Department has confirmed. They said they had received an anonymous report of a woman screaming.

The call came the morning after election results were announced showing Brown had won the union presidency, defeating four other candidates.

Brown, who is Black, has said he believes the call was a racist attempt to put his life in danger.

“I had the building swept for electronic surveillance,” he said Wednesday in the livestreamed video. “Because when you made the attempt on my life, that I can’t quite prove yet on May 25th, yeah, I was nervous walking up in here. And so when I say, ‘hey, certain people put me on guard and I feel that my life was threatened, and I can’t work with certain people because of what they’re trying to do to me,’ yeah, I had the building swept.”

Adding to the initial confusion over the “DBM” charge was a phone number on the invoice for Daily Beauty Management.

Taylor said his wife owns that business and they share a building. He said that when the charge was relayed from a shared office, her number appeared on the invoice. He said the “DBM” in his business’ name stands for the first letter of his first name and the first letters of the first names of his wife and daughter.

Travel to Northern California prison

Brown posted six years’ worth of union credit card statements to the union’s website two weeks ago. The statements cover his own time in office as well as that of his predecessor, Yvonne Walker, going back to 2015.

He also explained other charges Wednesday that union members have questioned on social media.

He spent small amounts of money at Spring Medical Clinic and Boulevard French Cleaners, the spending records show.

He said Wednesday that the charge at the clinic was for a TB test to visit state prisons, and that the laundry charges were so he can look “pressed and nice and neat” on his video appearances and during work site visits.

“All of my expenses are all going toward building membership,” he said Friday. “And it’s just that clear and direct.”

In Brown’s first three months in office, he and the union’s vice presidents charged $14,042 to the cards, statements show.

He also has charged gas, restaurants and hotels to his card. Some of his spending is related to trips to Susanville, where Brown has been advocating for the state to keep open California Correctional Center, a prison Gov. Gavin Newsom has slated for closure.

Many of the statements he posted for Walker’s time in office were accompanied by spreadsheets identifying the purpose of expenses. No explanations are given for the charges in Brown’s three months.

Local 1000 is tax-exempt under a portion of federal law that is more flexible than Section 501(c)(3), which regulates most nonprofit charities. Still, to keep the union’s tax-exempt status, its officers must spend its money in ways that benefit members, not themselves. A broad range of spending may qualify, depending on circumstances, according to nonprofit experts.

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