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DOLE v. FED'N OF POSTAL POLICE OFFICERS

June 29, 1990

ELIZABETH DOLE, SECRETARY OF LABOR, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FEDERATION OF POSTAL POLICE OFFICERS, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wexler, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Secretary of the United States Department of Labor (the "Secretary") brings this action pursuant to section 402(b) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 482(b), requesting this Court to set aside the election of certain officials in an election held in June 1988 by the Federation of Postal Police Officers ("FPPO"), and to order a new election subject to the Secretary's supervision. The Secretary alleges that the FPPO violated the prohibition on union-financed electioneering imposed by section 401(g) of the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 481(g). Presently before the Court are the Secretary's motion for summary judgment and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons below, both motions are granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

A. The FPPO and the June 1988 Election

The material facts not genuinely in dispute as taken from the papers in support of and in opposition to the respective motions and the parties' stipulation of uncontested facts can be summarized briefly. The FPPO represents approximately 1000 members who are employed by the United States Postal Service providing security at post offices throughout the country. Union members pay their dues — $13 per month — either directly to the FPPO or through a payroll deduction system.

The FPPO is broken down into five geographical districts with the districts further subdivided into thirty-three locals. As provided in the FPPO constitution, the national officers are the president, vice-president and secretary-treasurer. Prior to the June 1988 election, these positions were held by Sebastian Russo ("Russo"), Willie J. Brock ("Brock"), and William J. Carlin ("Carlin"), respectively. The constitution provides that elections of national and district officers are to be held every three years with nominations commencing and concluding in January and voting occurring between March 25, when secret ballots are sent out, and April 16, when the ballots are counted.

An election was scheduled for 1988 to fill thirteen positions: national president, vice-president and secretary-treasurer; five district presidents; and five district vice-presidents. All three incumbent national officers were running for reelection. Nomination notices, however, were not posted until sometime in February 1988, and the deadline for filing nominations was March 14, 1988. As for the voting, separate ballots for the national offices and district offices were mailed to the members from Chicago, Illinois on May 25, 1988, and were received back in Memphis, Tennessee by June 15; 1988, and counted that same day by the Union's Election Committee. The Election Committee was chaired by Darryl Bell ("Bell"), who was elected to that position by the National Executive Council ("Executive Council") at a January 13, 1988 annual meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. Under the FPPO constitution, the national officers and the district presidents constitute the Executive Council.

As for the offices of national president and national vice-president, Russo and Brock were both reelected by relatively wide margins: Russo defeated challengers Richard Bailey and Michael Singleton, 286 votes to 125 and 77 votes, respectively; Brock defeated challengers Raymond Greatorex, Perry Bautista, and Daniel Maggi, 312 votes to 91, 41, and 39, respectively.*fn2

All newly-elected officers were installed on July 22, 1988.

B. The Newsletters and the Charges at the Union Level

By letter dated June 13, 1988, from Carlin to Russo and Brock, Carlin charged Russo and Brock with the improper use of union funds and union publications for campaign purposes.*fn3 In the letter, Carlin referred to statements made in four editions of the FPPO's monthly newsletter, "Communique."

Signed by Russo and Brock, Communique is authored by Brock from his home in St. Louis, Missouri, and sent to Russo's home in New York, where Russo reviews its content and prepares it for distribution. As for the cost of producing and distributing editions of Communique, though it is typed gratis by Brock's sister on her own typewriter, Russo makes about fifty copies on a union-owned copier for distribution to the thirty-three union locals and to the individual union officials. Although Russo initially pays the cost of the copy paper, envelopes and postage, he submits monthly vouchers to the FPPO, which reimburses him for these costs.

In the June 13 letter, Carlin specifically referred to the following statements made in the April 21, 1988 Communique:

  Our National and District elections will get under way as soon
  as the National Secretary/Treasurer, Bill Carlin sends the
  funds for the election to the chairman of said committee. These
  funds were approved by the National Executive Council in
  January of this year at a meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. A
  competent Secretary Treasurer [sic] would have released funds
  immediately for such an important event.

Attached to the June 13 letter were copies of the May 26, 1987, February 17, 1988, April 21, 1988, and May 19, 1988 Communiques. In addition to the portion of the April 21 Communique quoted above, the challenged portions of these newsletters allegedly praising Russo and Brock and criticizing Carlin read as follows:

1. May 26, 1987 Communique:

IX. BUDGET REPORT, NATIONAL SECRETARY/TREASURER

    A. The Secretary/Treasurer reported that the National
  Treasury has been operating at a 14.9% deficit since July 5,
  1986 through February 28, 1987. Mr. Carlin failed to mention
  that these figures included the National Convention
  ($50,000.00) and more successful arbitrations, each
  ($4000.00) [sic], Step IV grievances and Labor-Management
  meetings than the prior administration had in years! Mr.
  Carlin also failed to mention that the National Treasury is
  ...

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