Public Citizen, Teamster Reformers Win Partial Rerun in Teamster Election

 

Feb. 25, 1999

Public Citizen, Teamster Reformers Win Partial Rerun in Teamster Election

Officials Find Violations of Election Rules

A court-appointed Teamster election official has ordered a rerun in the election for the office of Southern Region Vice President after finding serious violations of election rules, according to a ruling issued by Election Appeals Master Kenneth Conboy. The decision, which was issued late yesterday, also upheld the remainder of the election.

In an appeal filed by the Public Citizen Litigation Group on behalf of Doug Mims, a candidate on the Tom Leedham slate, Conboy ruled that the violations could have affected the outcome of the close election in the South, and that the proper remedy for those violations, which involved an illegal campaign contribution, was to give the members another chance to vote on candidates rather than allowing Teamster President James Hoffa to appoint a candidate. The Teamsters Union is the largest union in the country, representing 1.4 million members.

“This decision shows the continuing need for effective, independent supervision of Teamster elections,” said Paul Alan Levy, the Litigation Group lawyer who represented Mims. “Without aggressive investigation, J.D. Potter’s violations would never have been found, and without an independent authority to decide election matters, James Hoffa and his newly elected executive board would have succeeded in preventing the members from choosing their own leadership.

“It is anticipated, however, that the newly elected Teamster leadership will press hard to avoid any future government involvement in supervising union elections.”

The court-appointed Election Officer, Michael Cherkasky, had agreed that there were serious violations of the court-approved Election Rules by J.D. Potter, a candidate for Vice President on the Hoffa slate, and ordered Potter disqualified for perjuring himself during the investigation of the violation. However, Cherkasky also decided that the violations did not affect the outcome of the election, even though the Hoffa slate’s margin of victory in the South was razor thin. Instead, he decided to certify the election with the seat vacant, ruling that Hoffa could fill the vacancy after taking office.

Conboy held that Potter’s violation — fraudulently listing an illegal $5,000 campaign contribution to the Hoffa campaign as having been made by five individual members in order to conceal the illegality, and then perjuring himself during the investigation — could have made the difference in the Southern Region election, which Potter won by only 1,002 votes, less than 2 percent of the total. Moreover, Conboy ruled that rank-and-file Teamster members — not the same officials who benefitted by Potter?s wrongdoing — should choose who they want to represent them as Southern Vice President.

In the remainder of the decision, Conboy upheld the remainder of the rerun election and authorized the certification of the other winners. However, he ordered that his decision be stayed until the expiration of the two-week time period to appeal to United States District Judge David N. Edelstein.

Throughout the government-supervised Teamster elections beginning in 1990, Levy and the Litigation Group have represented hundreds of Teamster members, as well as Teamsters for a Democratic Union, in the courts and before the court-appointed election officials.