Suspension of New York Boss Upheld

The nine-month suspension  from union office imposed on Thomas R. O’Donnell, an Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters int’l vice president by IBT’s Indep. Rev. Bd. for election rules violations was affirmed Apr. 12 by U.S. Dist. Judge Loretta A. Preska. However, Preska said O’Donnell’s suspension from his int’l post as well as from his position as president of IBT Local 817 in Lake Success, N.Y., should not impede him from participating in IBT’s 2001 election of int’l officers. O’Donnell is running on IBT president James P. Hoffa’s slate as one of five int’l vice presidents at large.

O’Donnell was elected with Hoffa in the 1998 rerun election but stepped down from the int’l office following the IRB’s Nov. 13, decision that he had “brought reproach upon the IBT” and violated the union’s constitution by filing election finance reports that he knew failed to disclose certain payments to a campaign aide. In issuing the suspension, IRB said O’Donnell could not obtain employment, consulting, or other work from IBT or any local as an officer or employee. It did not suspend him, however, from IBT for the nine-month period.

IRB first filed charges against O’Donnell in December 1998 alleging he had submitted campaign finance reports that omitted payments to Kevin Currie, a campaign aide whom O’Donnell had learned had a criminal record. Checks for salary payments for work Currie did for O’Donnell’s campaign were written to Currie’s wife. O’Donnell later fired Currie, who subsequently was hired by the Hoffa campaign under a similar pay arrangement with Currie’s wife.

In accordance with procedures set out in the 1989 Consent Decree, IRB referred the charges of alleged wrongdoing to IBT for investigation and adjudication. A panel appointed by IBT Joint Council 16 found O’Donnell had violated the IBT constitution by intentionally failing to disclose payments to Currie, but the panel said O’Donnell did not intend to deceive the election officer. It recommended he be suspended from office for 30 days. IBT Secretary-Treasurer Thomas Keegel accepted the panel’s finding and ordered O’Donnell to pay a $ 6,000 fine. However, IRB said the sanction was “inadequate” and referred the case back to Keegel for his reconsideration; but the secretary-treasurer decided not to change his decision.  As allowed by the consent decree, IRB then took the case back for its own review and disposition. After hearings, IRB issued the more severe penalty of a nine-month suspension.

In its filings with Preska objecting to IRB’s penalty, IBT sought a clarification of O’Donnell’s eligibility to run for vice president at large in the 2001 election. The election administrator determined that his suspension does not preclude O’Donnell from being elected as a delegate from his local to the June 2001 convention or his attendance at the convention as a union member. The suspension will end Aug. 13, before the time of the election balloting in the fall, Preska wrote in her order affirming IRB’s decision.

“[I]t is my hope that O’Donnell’s suspension and any coincidental disqualification from participation in the upcoming election process [prior to Aug. 13] for violating the 1995-1996 election rules will serve as a cautionary tale to others in the future,” the Preska said. [BNA 4/19/01]