Tom Lemmon
Tom Lemmon left his role as the head of the San Diego Building and Construction Trades las year over receiving compensations he wasn't entitled to. Lemmon is seen here in January 2020. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

A local labor leader resigned from a union-aligned philanthropy because it continued to associate with Tom Lemmon after he was forced out of his role leading the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council last year.

Dave Gauthier, business manager/financial secretary-treasurer of Sheet Metal Workers Local 206, told the leadership of the John S. Lyon Foundation of his resignation from the board this month, four days after its annual memorial celebration gala.

Lemmon, who was also the CEO of the foundation in 2020, the most recent year its tax forms are available, agreed to leave the Building and Construction Trades Council, an umbrella group for construction unions in the region, after the discovery that he had received between $100,000 and $200,000 in “unintended compensation,” as Voice of San Diego reported last year.

He continued to have a role with the foundation, though, and was listed alongside over 40 other union and union-affiliated leaders as one of “The Johns,” the leadership body of the foundation, in an invitation to the organization’s 40th John S. Lyons Memorial Foundation, where they annually recognize the region’s labor leader of the year.

“Unfortunately, the reason for this letter is a very difficult one for me to send out,” Gauthier wrote in a letter addressed to Carol Kim, the foundation’s current leader, and the rest of The Johns. “I waited to send this communication until after the celebration so as to not take away from such a great event, however effective immediately I am resigning from the John S. Lyon Foundation.

“I can no longer bring myself or SMART Local 206 to be affiliated with any events or outings that include The Johns’ former leader,” Gauthier wrote.

The foundation donates money to charitable groups that look to cure cancer and other diseases, and it operates a scholarship program for high school students from San Diego or Imperial counties. Applications for the scholarship program are handled by Building Trades staff, and the foundation shares an address with the Building Trades.

“The San Diego Building Trades Executive Board and the National City Parks Apartment Board of Directors are aware of the facts surrounding Tom Lemmon’s release” from those organizations, Gauthier wrote, referring to a nonprofit housing organization run by the Building Trades, of which Lemmon was also the CEO. “Based on these facts, I am no longer comfortable exposing myself or SMART Local 206 to any joint financial decisions that include Mr. Lemmon, nor am I comfortable with Mr. Lemmon benefitting from those decisions.”

Gauthier declined to comment on what financial decisions he was referring to. He did not return phone calls and declined to comment when reached by text message. Kim did not respond to requests for comment. Lemmon did not respond to a request for comment.

The departure shows that Lemmon’s departure and the circumstances around it continue to cause rifts within a labor movement that he has maintained a public role in, including with the foundation.

“This letter is in no way meant to divide or recruit anyone away from The Johns,” Gauthier wrote. “This letter is only meant to communicate my decision through my own words and no one else’s interpretation or misinformation pertaining to this decision. I really do appreciate the support and understanding of those of you whom I have already spoken to about this.”

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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