The subpoena, addressed to the IAFF, ordered the organization’s appearance before a grand jury of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on December 14, 2021. It requested a series of documents related to Schaitberger, including his “personnel file such as those relating to employment information, travel, expenses, the use of IAFF debit or credit cards, or the use of IAFF landline or mobile telephone numbers. It also asked for documents related to the IAFF policy on financial practices and the use of union credit or debit cards.
The agencies requesting the subpoena included the US Attorney’s Office in DC, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Office of Investigations — Labor Racketeering and Fraud at the US Department of Labor.
“The IAFF intends to cooperate fully with this investigation, given the potential status of the organization that is victimized,” said union attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger.
Prior to his retirement from the IAFF in 2021, Schaitberger was a force in politics, holding the ranks of the top union leaders in the country. The fire service’s political action committee, FIREPAC, claims to be among the top federally registered PACs in terms of money raised.
On the 2020 campaign trail, Schaitberger served as one of Biden’s key allies, supporting the former vice president early on in the primary match. At a rally during the Democratic game in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Biden called Schaitberger “my friend for a long, long time.” In his own statement after Biden’s election, Schaitberger said: “The IAFF is honored to call Joe Biden our friend.”
Shortly after Biden’s inauguration, the IAFF released a statement praising the newly minted president’s early actions, including revoking a series of Trump-era executive orders. In the statement, Schaitberger said: “I have been in direct contact with the Biden team in recent months to advocate for these actions.”
Though Schaitberger has long been accused of misusing union funds to insure his lavish expenses, including expensive diners and chauffeured cars, he has faced a long list of additional charges in recent years. Among them, he and a former general secretary-treasurer of the union were accused of receiving excessive early retirement benefits while still working for the union, resulting in more than a million dollars in improper pension payments, according to a report by then-News. union secretary general—treasurer Edward A. Kelly, who is now the general president, the Wall Street Journal previously reported.
The report also found that Schaitberger and the employee had accrued millions of dollars in benefits under a non-tax qualified retirement program — money that should have been reported to the Internal Revenue Service. The internal documents also reveal millions in financial misreporting and non-discretionary funds that have been misused.
The union suspended its pension payments, but a committee later reinstated them, saying the overpayments “were the result of an error in the administration of the plan.”