Chicago Tribune

Federal Board Expels Ex-Teamsters Chief Carey

By John Schmeltzer
Tribune Staff Writer

July 27, 1998

Ron Carey, who a year ago brought United Parcel Service of America Inc. to its knees by leading 195,000 Teamsters on strike, was expelled from the powerful union for life Monday.

In a unanimous ruling that some supporters said was expected, the federal Independent Review Board concluded that Carey was involved in a scheme that sent $885,000 from the cash-strapped union to various political groups, which subsequently funneled the money to Carey's re-election campaign in 1996.

But the three-member board didn't agree on whether Carey, who has been on a voluntary unpaid leave of absence from the union's presidency since last November, was a knowing participant or simply negligent in his duties as the president of the 1.4 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

"Carey . . . failed to exercise his required duty of inquiry with respect to the unusual transactions,'' according to the majority opinion signed by two board members, former federal Judge William Webster and labor lawyer Grant Crandall. "By his entire course of conduct, he abdicated his fiduciary responsibilities.''

The third member of the review board, which under the federal consent decree is responsible for removing corrupt members and officers, said he did not believe Carey's claims that he was unaware of the illegal activities of his subordinates.

"Unlike my colleagues, I find that Carey did know that the contributions were to result in a benefit to his campaign fundraising,'' wrote former federal Judge Frederick Lacey, who agreed that Carey be booted out of the union.

Although federal prosecutors are continuing to examine the re-election scandal, most experts said the review board's decision likely is the last step in a process that began last August when a court-appointed election overseer annulled Carey's re-election over James P. Hoffa, the son of the former Teamsters president. Carey was barred earlier this year from a still-unscheduled rerun election.

Carey, 61, has vehemently denied knowing about the fundraising scheme. He couldn't be reached for comment Monday about his ouster from the union to which he has devoted himself for most of his adult life.

Likewise, efforts to reach Hoffa, who has been cleared to run again for the Teamsters presidency, or representatives at his Washington campaign headquarters, were unsuccessful.

Hoffa's supporters have insisted that the illegal contributions were the key to Carey's narrow victory in 1996. With less than a month left in the election campaign, Carey, who had been identified with the reform wing of the union, was locked in a tight race with Hoffa. Some of the money raised through the illegal scheme was used to pay for a mass mailing to union members only days before they were to vote.

Jerry Zero, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 705 in Chicago and a Carey supporter, said the former Teamsters president's ouster "will make it more difficult for a reformer to be elected.''

But Harley Shaiken, a labor expert with the University of California at Berkeley, said he wasn't so sure.

"Although this is personally devastating news for Carey, it likely will have a modest, if any, impact upon the election,'' said Shaiken. "The major impact was when Carey was removed from the presidency.''

Marvin Gittler, a Chicago labor lawyer who represents several Teamster locals, agreed: "I think the political alignment has already been changed by what was anticipated,'' said Gittler, a partner in Chicago law firm Asher Gittler Greenfield Cohen & D'Alba.

Unless reformers settle on a standard bearer, Hoffa could win in a walk.

Tom Leedham, an Oregon Teamster, has been endorsed by a Michigan-based reform movement. But John Metz, a St. Louis union leader, has won the backing of several union leaders who had backed Carey.

"The problem is that everybody is looking for a flag to rally around,'' said Gittler. "From what I understand, the only flag that is tall enough to be seen is Hoffa's, and I think that might be a good thing.''

Though a new election was ordered months ago, no date has been set to pick someone to succeed Carey. In addition, Congress still hasn't agreed to appropriate the $4 million needed to rerun the election. The government, under terms of a 1989 agreement allowing it to supervise union affairs, is obliged to pay for the elections.

In addition to expelling Carey, the review board barred William Hamilton, the Teamsters' former political director, from joining or working for the union in the future.

"The serious breaches of trust by Hamilton and Carey require severe sanctions,'' the board wrote in its ruling. While Carey could appeal, experts pointed out that U.S. District Court Judge David Edelstein, who would hear the appeal, has already upheld the order for a new election.

Copyright Chicago Tribune (c) 1998

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