Reuters Limited

U.S. Monitor Seeks Delay in Teamsters Election

By Peter Szekely

Sept, 09, 1998

WASHINGTON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - A court-appointed monitor on Thursday requested another postponement in the long-delayed rerun election of the leaderless Teamsters union, but insisted a new president could be declared by the end of the year.

The proposal by Election Officer Michael Cherkasky to delay mailing ballots to the union's 1.4 million members to Nov. 2 from Sept. 14 follows weeks of wrangling between the federal government, the union and the courts over who should pay for federal oversight of the election.

``The proposed amended timetable is a reasonable schedule for concluding the rerun election,'' Cherkasky said in papers filed with U.S. District Court Judge David Edelstein of New York. ``It will ensure a completed election by the end of this calendar year.''

Vying for the top spot of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are James Hoffa, 57, whose father ran the union in the 1960s and 1970s, Tom Leedham, 47, who heads the union's giant warehouse division, and John Metz, 59, director of its public employee division.

The new election was ordered when former union President Ron Carey's 1996 narrow re-election over Hoffa was thrown out after the discovery a year ago of a scheme that illegally funnelled Teamsters union money into Carey's campaign coffers.

Carey took an unpaid leave last November after another court appointed official found that he knew about the scheme and barred him from running in the new election. In July, a three-member panel set up to root out corruption in the Teamsters expelled him from the union.

Carey, who has denied any wrongdoing, is appealing the decisions.

Since Carey's departure, the union has been led by its No. 2 officer, Secretary-Treasurer Tom Sever, who is seeking re election on the Metz slate.

The rerun election was delayed several times, most recently because of a standoff over funding.

Although Congress voted last year to bar the use of taxpayer money to oversee 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 Teamsters first refused to pay for election supervision, but later reached a compromise in which the government would pay $4 million and the union $2 million.

While that is considerably less than the $8.6 million price tag Cherkasky previously put on the printing, mailing, counting and oversight of the ballots, he said he could live within the budget if he made cuts in certain areas, mainly in his office's ability to investigate and resolve election protests.

Under Cherkasky's proposed schedule, which is subject to approval by Edelstein, ballot-counting would begin on Dec. 3.

Edelstein oversees a 1989 consent decree that settled a federal anti-racketeering suit against the union after it was long known as the most corrupt in the American labour movement.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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All original work Copyright 1998. All rights reserved.