Embattled UAW President Gary Jones resigned his post Wednesday as the union's leadership was seeking to remove him from office because he allegedly misused union funds.
Jones' attorney issued a statement saying that he had decided to resign before learning that the union's executive board would vote to file internal charges against him and another union official who is already facing federal criminal charges.
"Gary made the decision to retire...in order to allow the union to focus on its core mission to improve the lives of its members and families," said the statement from attorney J. Bruce Maffeo.
Jones has not been charged by federal authorities in connection with the wide-ranging probe into allegations of bribery and misuse of union funds by union officials. So far, 10 individuals have pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges surrounding the scandal, most of them former union officials, while others are awaiting trial.
Jones, who took a leave of absence earlier this month, had his home searched in August by federal agents.
On Wednesday, the union's executive board unanimously moved to remove Jones from office by voting to approve internal charges accusing Jones of submission of false, misleading and inaccurate expense records.
"This is a somber day, but our UAW Constitution has provided the necessary tools to deal with these charges," said UAW Acting President Rory Gamble upon the filing of the charges. "We are committed at the UAW to take all necessary steps, including continuing to implement ethics reforms and greater financial controls, to prevent these type of charges from ever happening again." The union did not have any immediate comment on Jones' resignation.
Another union official, Vance Pearson, who has been charged in the federal probe, is the director of one of the union's regions and a close ally of Jones. Pearson, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, has been on leave since the indictment in September.
The UAW executive board also filed charges against Pearson on Wednesday, seeking to remove him from office and expel him from the union. His attorney said Wednesday that his team is reviewing the union charges against him.
The UAW has about 400,000 members, according to its most recent annual report. While the strength of most US unions has diminished in recent decades, the UAW remains one of the nation's most powerful.
It recently waged a six-week strike at General Motors that idled the automaker, costing an estimated $2.9 billion. But while the union won wage increases from the company and protected health benefits that GM wanted to cut, the UAW could not to achieve key goals of that strike, keeping open three US plants that GM had decided to close.
Jones' total annual compensation was $260,243, according to the union's most recent annual filing. Pearson's compensation came to $222,672.
Some of the federal criminal charges involve bribes paid to union officials by executives at Fiat Chrysler. Three of of the 10 people who have so far pleaded guilty and gone to prison are former executives of the automaker.
The action against Pearson comes on the same day that GM filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler, charging that it received unfair advantage by bribing union officials, which helped the company lower its labor costs.
The UAW denied that bribery scandal involving Fiat Chrysler affected its contracts with the automaker. Fiat Chrysler called the charges in the suit "meritless" and will fight them in court.
The union action comes on the same day that the Detroit News reported that six locals of the union supported an effort to remove Jones from office.