Joe Ashton, a former vice president of the UAW, has resigned from General Motors’ board of directors amid a widening federal probe into joint training centers overseen by representatives of the union and Detroit automakers.
GM said Wednesday that Ashton, who has not been charged or formally named in the investigation, "elected to resign" in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The resignation occurred Friday.
Ashton in August 2014 became the first representative of the union to join GM’s board. He was designated for nomination by the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, also known as a VEBA, which at the time owned about 140 million GM shares.
Ashton retired from the UAW in June 2014 and joined the GM board in August 2014.
A GM spokesman declined to comment on additional details of the resignation. The investigation initially focused on funds at a training site operated jointly by the union and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and has expanded to other operations.
In November, both GM and Ford Motor Co. said they are cooperating with federal investigators who have subpoenaed information about jointly operated training centers with the UAW.
The GM and Ford operations, which are funded by the automakers, are similar to FCA’s UAW-Chrysler National Training Center, which is a focus of a federal corruption investigation. Former FCA labor officials and others are accused of siphoning about $4.5 million meant for employee training to company and union officials.
The Detroit News, citing sources familiar with the investigation, last month reported federal investigators were “interested” in Ashton and Cindy Estrada, his successor in charge of the union's GM department.
Federal officials say the late General Holiefield, former head of the union’s FCA department, was a key figure in the alleged illegal activities, along with FCA's former top negotiator, Alphons Iacobelli, who was hired by GM in January 2016 as executive director of labor relations. Iacobelli has been suspended.
The case has led to criminal charges against four people, including Iacobelli and Holiefield's widow, Monica Morgan. Former FCA financial analyst Jerome Durden and former UAW official Virdell King have entered plea deals with prosecutors.
The UAW VEBA, as part of a 2009 agreement with the automaker, has the right to designate a replacement for Ashton. The representative will be part of an election at the automaker’s annual meeting in spring 2018.
VEBA officials declined to comment.