Teamsters local picks new slate of officers Court ordered vote


A story on the Teamsters union in Money At Work on Monday incorrectly reported the name of one winner in a recent election. Frank Imbragulio, not Theodore Prout, was one of three members elected business agent of Local 557. The Evening Sun regrets the error.

Members of one of the state's largest Teamsters union locals have picked new leaders in a court-ordered vote after illegal campaign contributions and other irregularities were discovered in the last election.

Today is the deadline for objections to be filed before the court certifies the new slate of officers for Teamsters Local 557, led by Philip Del Costello as president. The certification is expected to take about a month, and the officers will complete the three-year terms of the previous winners.

The local represents area drivers of some major trucking firms, including Preston Trucking Co., Yellow Freight System, and Leaseway. It has about 1,900 members.

Local 557 elected a slate of 10 officers in mail balloting that ended last Dec. 15. Business agent John Clemens defeated an incumbent, Clifton McDonald, and other challengers to win the presidency of the union and took office in January.

The presidential race was close, with less than 25 votes separating the top three finishers, McDonald said. He and Herman Myers, immediate past secretary-treasurer and a losing candidate for business agent, filed a protest with the union over irregularities. Regional Teamster officials ordered a new election, but Clemens appealed to the international.

Fearing that time was running out for federal action, McDonald took the matter to the U.S. Labor Department, which investigated and found violations, according to a Labor Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official said four employers were found to have illegally contributed to Clemens' election efforts by buying tickets to a fund-raiser. The four were a law firm, a boxing promoter, a limousine service and a bar owner.

One employer was found to have contributed to the election of two competing candidates.

None of the four employ members of the Teamsters, but could theoretically have benefited from the outcome of the election, through use of the union's hall or by providing services to the officers or members of the union, the official said.

No such allegations were investigated, however, because the contributions were illegal under any circumstances. Federal law

prohibits any employer from contributing to the election of a union officer, whether or not that employer has a contract with the union in question.

No criminal charges have resulted from the case, said Ellis Rottman, a Labor Department spokesman.

"I can't say it was corruption. I think it was a lack of knowledge about the election procedure," said McDonald, who served as business agent for the local before becoming president in 1987.

Clemens said "As far as I'm concerned it was a technicality." He said other candidates also sold fund-raiser tickets to employers, and criticized the strictness of the law of which he said he was unaware.

The Labor Department also found problems with the way some members eligibility to vote was decided, something Clemens blamed on the incumbent officers running the election, including McDonald.

Rottman said the thrust of the case was the employer contributions.

"If the members really think Del Costello is the savior, with no experience, it's OK with me," Clemens said.

The Labor Department filed suit in Baltimore federal court June 8 alleging that the union failed to properly guarantee its members the right to vote, did not conduct its election in accordance with its own constitution and bylaws, and that employers contributed money to the election.

A settlement was reached June 25, before the case came to trial. In accordance with the agreement, the judge ordered a new election under the supervision of the Labor Department. The case will be dropped upon certification of the new election, which was completed Sept. 5.

In the second election, Del Costello, a newcomer to elected office, received 370 votes to Clemens' 260, McDonald's 228, and Herbert Short's 148. Overall, Clemens' slate won three of the top four positions in the first election, but only one the second time around.

One member of Clemens' slate, secretary-treasurer Rodney Dize, said there was no evidence of willful corruption.

"There's never been a mark against this local," Dize said.

Del Costello said, "When you've won elections, you're supposed to know what the rules are and if you don't know, you're supposed to find out."

In other races in the second election, Ed Wenker was elected vice president; Mary Erbe, recording-secretary; Jean Thomas, Marty Cross and Andrew Surguy, trustees; and Arthur C. Morningstar, Theodore Prout and Frank Calvert, business agents.

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