Teamster Monitor Writes to Judge

By Kevin Galvin

Associated Press Writer

Thursday, June 25, 1998; 6:35 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A court-appointed monitor said Thursday he will end federal supervision of the Teamsters election unless the court can resolve a standoff over election's funding.

The letter to U.S. District Judge David Edelstein from election officer Michael Cherkasky put pressure on congressional Republicans. Some GOP members have opposed spending taxpayer money on the contest, although a federal appeals court has ruled the government was bound to pay under the terms of a consent decree the union signed in 1989 to avoid racketeering charges.

Direct elections of union officers are key to the government's cleanup plan, which was designed to pry loose organized crime's grip on the union.

Cherkasky suggested that if funding were not immediately forthcoming, the union should still be forced to hold a rerun election, and that Edelstein could ask the union or the government to pay and then seek repayment later.

But he left open the possibility that the election would be held without supervision.

"It would be astounding, and a stunning waste of decades of effort spent fighting organized crime and labor racketeering, if the current paralysis over funding resulted in the abandonment of this law enforcement effort and left the rerun election in limbo," Cherkasky wrote.

"Despite professed support from the government and the IBT for election officer supervision, I need more than good intentions in order to go forward."

Incumbent Ron Carey's narrow 1996 re-election over James P. Hoffa was set aside by a previous election officer after investigators uncovered an illegal fund-raising scheme that used more than $800,000 in union funds to boost Carey's campaign. Carey was banned from the rerun, his campaign manager and two consultants pleaded guilty in federal court, and the union's political director was indicted.

Under the consent decree the government could supervise the 1996 race if it paid for it. That race cost about $20 million in public funds.

Congressional Republicans, led by Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, have opposed underwriting the estimated $8.6 million rerun. But after they rejected a plan to split the cost with the union, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that if the government expected to supervise the contest, "the government must bear the costs."

The union issued a statement saying it ``expects the government to comply with the appeals court's ruling and to proceed with the election as scheduled under federal supervision.''

Hoekstra said that lawmakers have been reluctant to provide further funding because they aren't convinced that adequate safeguards are in place to prevent another corrupted election.

Nevertheless, he predicted that a solution would be found "sooner rather than later." "We're going to work this out," he said.

Cherkasky said he had about $750,000 left, enough to continue basic operations for about 14 weeks but not enough to begin contracting auditors, vote tabulators and other vendors. He asked Edelstein to have a payment agreement in place by June 30.

Hoffa's campaign manager, Tom Pazzi, said, "We hope that Mr. Cherkasky is successful in his attempts to secure funding for the election."

"If funding isn't forthcoming soon, we won't be silent," he said.

Steve Trossman, spokesman for Hoffa's main challenger, Tom Leedham, said, ``This is the mess that's been created by Congressman Hoekstra, who is acting contrary to the interest of rank-and-file Teamsters.''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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