SAN DIEGO -- Despite chronic absenteeism and an allegation of sexual misconduct, labor leader Mickey Kasparian was allowed to stay on the San Diego County Democratic Central Committee after an effort to expel him in September.
The next day, the party received a $10,000 contribution from Kasparian's union, one of the largest donations of 2017.
The party said that the timing of the payment was coincidental and the contribution from Kasparian's union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135, was requested months earlier. But the sequence of events has raised questions among Kasparian's and the party's critics, who see the money as a way the union boss kept himself close to political leaders as he fought against allegations of boorish behavior.
"I think that the timing of the contribution is very suspicious," said Chris Lopez, a UFCW 135 member and frequent critic of Kasparian. "Also, as a union member, he never asked the membership if he could give $10,000 to the Democratic party. We feel that the membership should be aware of the contributions to Democrats to Republicans or anything.
"Now, finding out it's the day after he's absolved, it's very, very suspicious," said Lopez, a produce clerk, by phone. "I don't like it at all."
The exact timing of when the union made the payment is unknown. It might have been an instant electronic payment the day after the party decision. But it's also possible that the union sent a check by mail days before the decision.
Kasparian, the treasurer of the union's political action committee, did not return a request for comment. Critics said even a payment sent before the party decision would be suspect.
"The appearance of impropriety that comes with the timing of the donation in question is unfortunate and betrays a lack of political acumen. I'm disappointed that the party I love seems to be unable to square our values with our actions, locally," said Shawn VanDiver, a Democratic activist and the director of the San Diego Chapter of the Truman National Security Project.
The revelation that Local 135 donated to the Democratic Party was contained in finance records that became public last week, and comes as the nation discusses sexual misconduct by men in power and the people and institutions that protect them.
In Washington, D.C., and Sacramento, Democrats have purged allies and their own lawmakers who have been accused of sexual misconduct. In San Diego, the party has not taken similar steps to distance itself form Kasparian, who has been similarly accused of wrongdoing. Kasparian denies all the accusations.