Reuters Limited

Monitor Wants U.S. & Teamsters To Pay For Election

June 25, 1998

By Peter Szekely

WASHINGTON, June 25 (Reuters) - A special monitor on Thursday asked a court to order the federal government and the Teamsters union to work out a deal to pay for oversight of the union's upcoming election -- or hold it without supervision.

Declaring that he will be unable to hold the election on schedule unless a funding dispute is resolved by next week, court-appointed Election Officer Michael Cherkasky asked U.S.

District Court Judge David Edelstein to order the government and the union to come up with a joint payment plan by Tuesday.

If the two sides still are unable to agree on a plan to pay for the oversight of the September election, a rerun of the 1996 contest that was ruled invalid, Cherkasky said the union should be ordered to hold it without oversight by his office.

"It would be astounding, and a stunning waste of decades of effort spent fighting organised crime and labour racketeering, if the current paralysis over funding resulted in the abandonment of this law enforcement effort and left the rerun election in limbo," he said in papers filed with the court.

Cherkasky said his office needs $8.6 million to print, mail and count ballots that are due to be sent on Sept. 14 to 1.4 million members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Although Congress voted last year to bar the use of taxpayer money to pay for the rerun after about $18 million was spent on the 1996 contest, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that if the government wants the election supervised, it must pay for it.

The ruling has set up a standoff between the government's legislative and executive branches on the one hand, and the judicial branch on the other, which ruled that the union is not required to fund the oversight of its election.

For its part, the Teamsters union gave no hint that it would agree to a joint payment deal with the government.

"The (union) expects the government to comply with the appeals court's ruling and to proceed with the election as scheduled under federal supervision," it said in a statement.

After decades of corruption investigations, the Justice Department filed an anti-racketeering suit against the union 10 years ago, which was settled in a 1989 consent decree that set up layers of court-administered oversight of the union.

Included in the decree were requirements that the Teamsters union would pay for the oversight of its first-ever election open to the rank and file in 1991 and that the government would pay for oversight of the 1996 contest, which they did.

But the 1996 election, in which union President Ron Carey narrowly defeated challenger James Hoffa, was thrown out by Cherkasky's predecessor after the discovery of scheme that illegally funnelled money from the union's treasury into Carey's campaign coffers.

Carey, now on unpaid leave, has since been barred from running in the rerun election after another overseer found that he had a hand in the scheme. Carey has denied any wrongdoing.

In papers filed with Edelstein in New York, Cherkasky said the unresolved funding issue has left his office unable to make contracts with vendors.

Printing, stuffing and mailing the ballots alone would cost nearly $700,000, almost all of the funds the election officer currently has, he said. Unless the ballot paper is purchased by July 1, the vendor has said it cannot meet the election timetable, Cherkasky added.

Even without the additional expense of overseeing the election, Cherkasky said his office will run out of money around the end of September.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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All original work Copyright 1998. All rights reserved.