Associated Press

Timing of Teamsters Vote Discussed

By Kevin Galvin

Associated Press Writer

September 9, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ballots in the much-delayed Teamsters election would be counted in the first week of December under a revised plan offered today by a court-appointed overseer.

The plan filed with U.S. District Judge David Edelstein in New York by election monitor Michael Cherkasky came after the union's executive board reversed itself last month and offered to contribute $2 million toward the cost of the vote.

Haggling between congressional Republicans and the union over the estimated $8 million tab had forced Cherkasky to abandon plans to mail ballots to the union's 1.4 million members on Sept. 14. Currently, there is just over $6 million pledged toward supervision of the contest.

``The election officer believes that the rerun election could be supervised for the amount presently available,'' Cherkasky wrote to Edelstein, adding that he would have to trim field staff assigned to investigating election protests.

``In order to make up for this reduction, the election officer plans to hire two additional staff attorneys and to streamline the protest resolution process,'' Cherkaksy continued.

The proposal is subject to Edelstein's approval.

The rerun election was ordered after incumbent Teamsters President Ron Carey's 1996 re-election over James P. Hoffa was overturned. Three of Carey's campaign aides pleaded guilty in federal court to an illegal fund-raising scheme and the union's former political director was indicted. Carey was barred from the rerun and expelled from the union.

Under the terms of a federal consent decree, the 1996 contest was paid for with $17.5 million in taxpayer money. Congressional Republicans blocked new funds for the rerun, despite a 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the government was obligated to pay.

In July, GOP leaders in Congress said they would allow the Justice Department to spend about $4 million to pick up the cost of a federal board tasked with weeding out corrupt union officials if the Teamsters would use the money that freed up to pay for the election and put up another $4 million. Emboldened by the appeals court ruling, the union resisted until late last month, when it offered $2 million.

Cherkasky said that if Edelstein acted quickly to approve his proposal, ballots would be mailed on Nov. 2 and the vote count could begin Dec. 3.

Five slates and six independent candidates are vying for various Teamsters offices, from trustee to general president. The principal candidates for the union's top post are Hoffa, son of labor legend Jimmy Hoffa, and Tom Leedham, who has the backing of the union's reform wing.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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