For his credit union duties, Ahern acknowledged that he receives yet another salary, in addition to his labor council and union pay. He declined to say how much he earns, as did credit union officials. "I don't want this to be about my salary," he said.
That's kind of hard to avoid when you won't discuss it. Ahern also went mute regarding several other matters cited by a half-dozen Local 30 members who brought their complaints directly to the Voice. He refused to discuss specifics of an incident involving a former maintenance worker for the local who was injured on the job. Several union members said that the injury occurred while the employee, Jose Fernandez, was working on Ahern's $1.2 million home in Old Westbury.
"Not true," said Ahern. "It's impossible." Fernandez had never worked for the local, he said. Actually, Fernandez was listed as a Local 30 employee on federal union reports signed by Ahern.
He likewise declined to discuss other work done on his residence by members. Ahern initially said that any help he'd received was merely a friendly gesture. "I would work on their house, and they would work on my house," he said. Some members, he then added, may also have been paid for their help.
Ahern referred all of these questions to a former New Jersey judge, James Zazzali, who is serving as an independent ethics officer for the Operating Engineers union. The same disgruntled members had made the same charges to Zazzali, said Ahern. "He reviewed them. They were found to be without merit."
When contacted, Zazzali paused when told that. "In fairness, that's his view of it," said the judge. "All I can say is that the matter is under continuing review."
One matter stands resolved, however. A day after meeting with the Voice, Ahern's local revamped its website, figuring out a way to post the names of four of its 2010 scholarships winners, and encouraging members to submit applications for the next round.