Teamsters leader disqualified from rerun election Union funds misused, court's monitor says

November 18, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

A court-appointed union monitor yesterday barred Ron Carey from running for re-election as Teamsters' president after finding that the man who came into office as a reformer had backed a plan in which more than $700,000 in union funds was used to help his own campaign.

Kenneth Conboy, a former federal judge taking part in the government cleanup of the Teamsters, disqualified Carey after concluding that he engaged in improper self-dealing by diverting members' dues to his campaign coffers in last year's nullified election.

Conboy's decision sent shock waves through the union movement, because Carey, a former United Parcel Service driver from New York City, has long been considered one of labor's leading crusaders against corruption. He was first elected to lead the Teamsters in 1991 on a platform of rooting out mob influence, and as president, he has slashed lavish perks and ousted officials close to the Mafia.

The ruling changed the prospects for the Teamsters' election scheduled to end in March, and had broad implications for the AFL-CIO, finding that leaders of other unions had improperly raised money for the Carey campaign.

James P. Hoffa, son of the legendary Teamsters leader, is now the clear favorite in the coming election to head the 1.4-million- member union, made up of long-haul truckers, warehouse workers, flight attendants and others.

Carey's supporters said that if he fails to overturn the ruling, they would quickly rally around a new candidate.

Whoever leads the Carey wing of the Teamsters would face a difficult battle against someone with the most famous last name in the labor movement.

In an emotional appearance before reporters in Washington yesterday, Carey, who remains the subject of a grand jury investigation, declared his innocence, denouncing what he called "an unbelievable, wrong decision."

"My answer to all of this is very simple," he said. "I have done nothing wrong, and I will fight this decision until it is overturned."

The disqualification of one of the nation's most visible labor leaders comes just three months after Carey led 180,000 UPS workers in a successful strike in August.

As head of the largest union in the AFL-CIO, he also was instrumental in electing John Sweeney to head the labor federation.

"It's a sad day for the labor movement, because Carey has helped turn around not just the Teamsters, but the whole labor movement," said Ken Paff, national coordinator of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a Detroit-based group that has long fought Teamster corruption.

With his decision, Conboy became the first official to place Carey deeply in a conspiracy to raise money illegally for his campaign. Conboy concluded that Carey had broad knowledge of a fund-raising scheme in which the Teamsters gave donations to the Democratic Party, and a wealthy Democratic donor was to give money to the Carey campaign.

Conboy is part of a government effort to clean up the Teamsters that the union agreed to in 1989 to settle a racketeering suit brought by the Justice Department.

His decision cited testimony by three Carey aides tying the union's president to a scheme in which more than $700,000 in Teamster funds went to several liberal nonprofit groups, including Citizen Action. In return, Conboy wrote, those groups, and donors to those groups, gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the Carey campaign.

Conboy also found that several other labor leaders, including Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer, and Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, had improperly raised money for Carey.

By citing these leaders and by disqualifying Carey, the decision is a stinging setback to a group of liberal labor leaders who are close to Sweeney and behind the labor movement's efforts to revive itself.

Conboy did provide one piece of good news for Hoffa's opponents. In a companion decision, he ordered the federal official overseeing the Teamsters' election to investigate the source of $1.8 million in contributions to the Hoffa campaign.

Some Carey supporters predicted this was a step toward disqualifying Hoffa as well.

"They can look at our finances all they want," said Hoffa, a Detroit-based labor lawyer. "There's nothing wrong with our finances."

Pub Date: 11/18/97

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