IAFF internal review finds no financial misconduct by president; FBI probe ongoing

IAFF President Harold Schaitberger was accused of early withdrawal of more than $1 million in pension payments


By Laura French

WASHINGTON, DC — The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) has concluded its internal review into accusations of financial misconduct against union President Harold Schaitberger, reporting no evidence of wrongdoing by Schaitberger and reversing the suspension placed on his monthly pension payments. 

The Intercept reported that a 29-page report distributed to IAFF leaders on Monday did not confirm or dispute claims made by union General Secretary-Treasurer Ed Kelly in March that Schaitberger withdrew more than $1 million in pension payments earlier than he was permitted to, but states that Schaitberger could not be held responsible under federal retirement law if the overpayments were mistakenly made. 

International Association of Fire Fighters President Harold A. Schaitberger speaks at the IAFF Legislative Conference and Presidential Forum in 2015. The IAFF has concluded its internal investigation into allegations of financial misconduct by Schaitberger, stating Schaitberger was not at fault for any alleged pension overpayments. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
International Association of Fire Fighters President Harold A. Schaitberger speaks at the IAFF Legislative Conference and Presidential Forum in 2015. The IAFF has concluded its internal investigation into allegations of financial misconduct by Schaitberger, stating Schaitberger was not at fault for any alleged pension overpayments. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The IAFF's internal report comes after federal authorities announced their own investigation into the allegations against Schaitberger in early September. 

Kelly alleged that Schaitberger received pension payments between September 2000 and January 2016, and had not yet retired or had a severance of employment during that period, meaning he should not have been eligible to receive any benefits. 

However, according to the IAFF's report obtained by The Intercept: "Mr. Schaitberger had no role in the administration of the Staff Pension Plan and was not at fault for any mistake in connection with his retirement. The IAFF's failure to identify the severance issue for nearly 20 years has foreclosed Mr. Schaitberger from taking action that could have remedied the situation and avoided altogether, or greatly diminished, the more than 15 years of overpayments that Mr. Schaitberger is now alleged to have received."

The report also states that an amendment unanimously approved by the IAFF's executive board in 2002 affirmed that Schaitberger was permitted to collect his pension while serving as president. According to the report, if any overpayments were received, they could not now be recovered from Schaitberger under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, which places responsibility on the employer, not the employee, to retain pension fund records. 

The investigation was conducted by the IAFF's Claims Committee. None of the committee members involved in the review had been appointed by Schaitberger or Kelly, according to The Intercept.

The FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia launched a criminal investigation into the pension payments in early September, according to the Wall Street Journal, issuing subpoenas to the union and its former Treasurer Thomas Miller. The federal investigation is ongoing. 

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