Decision to fire union executive leads to fistfights

April 13, 1991|By Michael K. Burns

Fistfights broke out outside AFSCME Council 67 offices yesterday morning, after the executive board of the statewide union voted Thursday night to fire its controversial executive director following a stormy year of complaints by staff and members.

Five people filed assault reports with police who responded to the parking lot melee, and the fired director, Glenard S. ZTC Middleton, occupied the office while his successor, John H. Carter, appealed to the international union president to declare him the official director.

Mr. Middleton, a former Baltimore City Jail guard, was voted out by the nine-member executive board of Council 67 and replaced by Mr. Carter, a council staff representative for seven years. The vote was reportedly taken after four Middleton supporters walked out of the specially called meeting in protest.

The fighting between faction members occurred after Mr. Carter and Mr. Middleton both arrived at the Council 67 offices at 175 W. Ostend St., where the locks had been changed overnight by the executive board following the change of staff leaders.

Council 67, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, represents about 14,000 county and local government workers in 42 locals in Maryland.

Mr. Carter claimed yesterday he was kicked and beaten by Mr. Middleton just after Mr. Carter opened the locked outside door of the office. The office was to have been closed yesterday for the executive board to secure the financial records, he added.

"This is crazy; it's unbelievable. It's just like thug-ism," Mr. Carter said yesterday at Harbor Hospital Center, where he sought medical treatment for cuts and bruises.

Mr. Middleton, who did not return a reporter's phone call to his office, told police he was struck by Mr. Carter.

The question of which man is entitled to the executive director's post that pays more than $80,000 a year is to be decided by the AFSCME international president, Gerald McEntee, who got a report yesterday from both sides through his area

representative, Peter Moralis.

Carol Ann Buttrum, president of the council, issued a statement late yesterday reaffirming her support for the board's action. She also told staff members she wanted the international union to quickly validate Mr. Carter's promotion and remove Mr. Middleton.

At issue is whether one of the Council 67 executive board members who voted to oust Mr. Middleton properly paid his union dues and was a valid member. The board hires the executive director, who supervises the council staff.

Mr. Middleton's rapid and unconventional rise to the top union executive job in December 1989 after virtually no staff experience has been a continuing source of concern among council employees and local officers.

But mounting complaints of inactivity, loss of political credibility and financial improprieties during his tenure reportedly prompted Ms. Buttrum to call a special meeting in March for the purpose of replacing him.

That meeting was adjourned when board member Belton Sutphin, who had recently retired, was said to be delinquent in paying union dues and the session was rescheduled for Thursday.

The board meeting followed a movement organized last year by leaders of about a dozen AFSCME locals to press for a new executive director.

Last month, members of Mr. Middleton's own AFSCME local, Local 44, filed charges of malfeasance against him with Council 67. Theyclaimed he did not properly account for expenses he claimed as local president and that he violated union bylaws on holding meetings.

The petition also asserted that Mr. Middleton had improperly been paid half-salary by the city for serving as Local 44 president while he was also collecting his salary as executive director of Council 67.

Mr. Middleton used his position as president of Local 44 in 1987 -- the largest AFSCME local in Maryland, representing some 5,000 Baltimore municipal employees -- to launch his rise to power in the council.

Voting all of his local's ballots for himself in the 1989 election as a last-minute announced candidate, he won the council presidency. Then he got the council executive board to quickly oust incumbent Executive Director Thomas Rapanotti, assuming the director's job.

It was virtually the same executive board that voted this week to remove him.

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