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Two members of the city’s white-collar employee union filed suit today against its general manager, Judie Italiano, claiming she misused union funds by charging thousands in personal expenses to union credit cards and made loans to herself, her family and her allies in the union.

The suit was filed by Ed Harris, a lifeguard who is leading a push for the lifeguards to separate from MEA, and by Linda French, who sought to unseat Italiano in 2007. The lawsuit says Italiano breached her fiduciary duties and seeks to have her suspended or removed as general manager.

Among the charges: that Italiano used MEA’s line of credit to secure her son’s business lease and make a business loan to him. The suit says Italiano made more than $130,000 in personal purchases on the MEA credit card — including to casinos — and used $10,000 in union money to buy property “believed to be a timeshare in Hawaii.” The lawsuit alleges that Italiano has stopped making payments on a promissory note drafted after the charges were first discovered.

MEA consultant Michael Zucchet said the allegations were already reported in 2006 when former City Attorney Mike Aguirre investigated Italiano. Zucchet said MEA started an internal investigation into the allegations, hired auditors “and deemed it to be without merit, and took care of what needed to be taken care of.”

He said the charges were being resurrected “in what is going to be a failed attempt to influence the City Council” when they hear an appeal Tuesday that, if granted, could allow the city’s lifeguards to leave MEA and join the Teamsters.

“This is as transparent as it gets,” Zucchet said.

Harris said the suit wasn’t filed to influence the council vote, saying the problems cited in the complaint are part of the reason he’s seeking to leave MEA.

RANI GUPTA

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