Associated Press

Teamster Overseers Deny GOP Charges

By Kevin Galvin
Associated Press Writer

Thursday, July 30, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Court-appointed overseers responsible for ridding the Teamsters union of organized crime figures reacted angrily Thursday to accusations they were biased against opponents of former Teamsters President Ron Carey.

At a hearing before the House Education and Workforce subcommittee, former U.S. District Judge Frederick Lacy called the accusations from Republicans on the House panel unfair.

Lacy and another lifelong Republican and one time-federal judge -- former FBI Director William Webster -- and United Mine Workers union general counsel Grant Crandall form a three-member Independent Review Board established to fight corruption in the Teamsters union.

The board, created as part of a 1989 consent decree the Teamsters signed with the Justice Department, is widely credited with helping to clean up the union by trusteeing corrupt locals and forcing members and associates of the Mafia to resign.

During earlier hearings, Republican committee members had embraced testimony from witnesses who felt they were wronged by Carey and suggested that the IRB had been biased against Carey's opponents within the union.

Quoting from hearing transcripts, Cassandra Lenchner, the Democratic counsel on the House panel, asked the IRB officials Thursday to respond to GOP accusations that the board tired to protect Carey and that ``Lacey doesn't really want to get involved too much in learning things that seem to go against his own judgement.''

``I can't understand how people who are responsible and know what we've done here can engage in that,'' Lacey responded. ``This is not fair.''

He asked members of the House committee who had any other questions about his performance to ask them now, ``instead of waiting until I'm absent.''

Former U.S. Attorney Charles Carberry, who acts as the IRB's chief investigator and recommends charges to a three-member panel, was choked with emotion when asked if internal union politics ever influenced his decision to bring charges.

``I took an oath,'' he said Thursday. ``I have never let my personal opinion interfere with my professional obligations.''

Teamsters communications director Matt Witt also appeared at Thursday's hearing but an effort by the panel's Democrats to let him testify was ruled out of order by Chairman Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich.

Last week, the committee's Republican counsel, Victoria Toensing, said Witt had resigned from the union and had been spotted shredding documents over the weekend. Witt said Thursday he had not resigned and he denounced Toensing's remarks as an effort to generate negative publicity about the union.

``People like Matt Witt deserve an apology, and I think each of you deserve an apology,'' Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wisc., told the IRB members. ``We've got to end this character assassination that's been going on for too long in this investigation.''

Hoekstra said the committee's staff would use its newly won power to conduct sworn depositions to ``get to the bottom of the allegation.''

Carey was expelled from the union on Monday after the review board said he was responsible for illegally directing $885,000 in union funds to third-party political groups to boost his 1996 re-election over James P. Hoffa for the union's presidency.

Hoekstra's subcommittee has been investigating the possible involvement of Democratic party officials in the scheme.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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