The Columbus Dispatch

 

UNION LOCALS' ELECTION RESULTS THROWN OUT

 

BYLINE: Mark Niquette, Dispatch Business Reporter

June 23, 2001

 

Ballots have been impounded and a new election for union convention delegates will be held at two Columbus-area locals because of possible ballot tampering.

 

Locals 423 and 216 of the Laborers' International Union of North America, representing 2,000 central Ohio construction workers, recently completed an election with mail-in ballots to select delegates to attend an international union convention this fall in Las Vegas.

 

At the convention, held every five years, delegates nominate the international president and other officers and conduct major union business.

 

The ballots were to be counted June 16 but were impounded when questions surfaced about how they were handled. Local union officials declined comment yesterday.

 

Stephen B. Goldberg, the international union election officer, ruled Thursday after an investigation that while he cannot determine whether there was an intentional effort to tamper with ballots, there were numerous violations of union election rules that "cast substantial doubt on the validity of the election.”

 

Goldberg cited several violations, including the fact that ballots were picked up early from a post-office box and left in the office of a delegate candidate, and that far more ballots than needed were printed.

 

The election officer said the problems also raise concerns about the local union's ability to conduct a fair election. He has ordered the regional election coordinator in Pittsburgh to conduct another election with mail-in ballots.

 

Regional Coordinator Michael J. Healey said dates for the new election haven't been set but that local workers should expect to receive an election packet in July.

 

"Whether this was a comedy of errors or purposely done, it casts the entire union election process in a bad light, and that's unfortunate,” said Jeff Nourse, one of three members of Local 423 who ran the election.

 

Nourse was not named in Goldberg's report.

 

The problems are the latest for Local 423, whose election for vice president was thrown out and repeated by the U.S. Department of Labor in 1998 because local members improperly elected a convicted felon.

 

The international union also faced federal scrutiny after a Justice Department probe in 1995 uncovered corruption and racketeering.

 

For the upcoming convention, 12 local members were nominated for nine delegate slots -- seven from Local 423 in Columbus and two from Local 216 in Springfield. Nine candidates are local officers running as a slate.

 

Delegates are being selected this month from the international union's 650 locals nationwide, representing 850,000 members, for the convention Sept. 17 to 20.

 

Jay Cannon, executive director of the international's election office, said there are 418 uncontested and 157 contested local elections -- and that no other local's ballots have been impounded.

 

"It's pretty uncommon,” he said.


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