Mark Rosenthal, Am. Fed. of State, County & Municipal Employees’ Dist. Council 37’s best-known corruption fighter, could hardly believe what he had stumbled upon when a janitor led him into a long-forgotten storeroom at union headquarters. Atop a file cabinet inside the musty storeroom was a large cardboard box holding hundreds of election ballots that he said were palpably fraudulent. The ballots came from a 1995 election for the executive board of his AFSCME Local 983.
Rosenthal claimed the ballots were suspect for numerous reasons: the return addresses on dozens of envelopes were written in identical handwriting; the postmarks showed that dozens of ballots were mailed from the same post office at the same time, and scores of ballots were filled out precisely the same way.
“This was like an act of God to me,” said Rosenthal. “I’ve always suspected that that election was a fraud, and I’ve been searching for proof for four years, and here, God, it just fell into my lap. If anyone knows about searching for justice, this shows there really is a God.” Rosenthal said the ballots proved that the previous president of his union, Local 983, had perpetrated the vote fraud to guarantee that his 26 allies running for the local’s executive board would win election.
In Jun., the Manhattan Dist. Atty. Robert M. Morgenthau, announced the indictment of the local’s former president, Robert Taylor, on charges of fixing the 1995 election, grand larceny and reporting false results in the 1996 ratification vote on the district council’s contract. Alan Friess, Mr. Taylor’s lawyer, insisted yesterday that Mr. Taylor was not guilty, saying he had moved to dismiss the charges on the ground that the indictment was defective.
Since Mr. Rosenthal was elected president of the local a year ago, he has played a major role as a whistle-blower at District Council 37. He helped uncover evidence of vote fraud, embezzlement and kickbacks — as well as a $91,000 Christmas party. These revelations put pressure on Morgenthau and AFSCME to move more quickly against corruption in DC37.
Four years ago, Rosenthal, asked DC37 to overturn his local’s 1995 election. In that election protest, he
asserted that it was extremely unlikely that all 26 candidates on Taylor’s slate could beat all 26 members on his slate when the Taylor slate appeared unpopular and hardly campaigned. But DC37 rejected Rosenthal’s challenge on the ground that he had not come up with hard evidence of fraud.
After Rosenthal discovered the ballots late Monday, he informed DC37 bosses, who immediately told him to secure the ballots and turn them over to Morgenthau. Rosenthal conferred with his lawyer, Arthur Z. Schwartz, and they
concluded that it would be wisest to move the ballots to the lawyer’s home. “We did not believe the ballots were safe in the building because too many people knew about it,” Schwartz said. “To this day, no one has explained how the ballots from another local’s election disappeared from a locked storeroom.” On Aug. 10, an investigator from Morgenthau’s office picked up the ballots. [N.Y. Times 8/13/99]