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U.S. v. INTERNATIONAL BROTH. OF TEAMSTERS

June 6, 1991

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS. IN RE APPLICATION XXI BY THE INDEPENDENT ADMINISTRATOR.



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

  OPINION & ORDER

This opinion emanates from the voluntary settlement in the action commenced by the plaintiff United States of America (the "Government") against the defendants International Brotherhood of Teamsters (the "IBT") and the IBT's General Executive Board (the "GEB") embodied in the voluntary consent order entered March 14, 1989 (the "Consent Decree"). The remedial provisions in the Consent Decree provided for three Court-appointed officials, the Independent Administrator to oversee the remedial provisions, and Investigations Officer to bring charges against corrupt IBT members, and an Election Officer to oversee the electoral process leading up to and including the 1991 election for International Officers (collectively, the "Court Officers"). The goal of the Consent Decree is to rid the IBT of the hideous influence of organized crime.

Application XXI presents for this Court's review the opinion and supplemental opinion of the Independent Administrator (the "Vitale Decision") deciding the disciplinary charges brought by the Investigations Officer against IBT officer George Vitale. Vitale is an International Vice President on the GEB, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Central States Conference of Teamsters' Policy Committee, the Vice President of IBT Joint Council 43, Chairman of the Automobile, Petroleum and Allied Trades Division, and the President and Business Agent of IBT Local Union 283 in Michigan.

The Investigations Officer filed seven charges against Vitale. First, Vitale was charged with embezzling approximately $10,116.00 from Local 283 in violation of Article XIX, § 6(b)(3) of the IBT Constitution and 29 U.S.C. § 501(c). Second, Vitale was charged with attempting, while President of Local 283, to embezzle Local 283 property, a Lincoln Town Car, in violation of Article XIX, § 6(b)(1) and (3) of the IBT Constitution, § 16(c) of Local 283's By-laws, and 29 U.S.C. § 501(c). Based on this conduct, Vitale was also charged with violating his IBT membership oath at Article II, § 2(a) and Article XIX, § 6(b)(2) of the IBT Constitution by bringing reproach upon the IBT. Third, Vitale was charged with embezzling monies from Local 283 in violation of Article XIX, § 6(b)(3) of the IBT Constitution and 29 U.S.C. § 501(c) based on his criminal conviction for violating 29 U.S.C. § 501(c) by converting over $1,200 of Local 283's property to his own use. Fourth, Vitale was charged with breaching his fiduciary duties to the members of Local 283, and violating Article XIX, § 6(b)(2) of the IBT Constitution by violating his oath of office and bringing reproach upon the IBT based on his 1972 guilty plea to a violation of 29 U.S.C. § 186(b)(1). Fifth, Vitale was charged with aiding and assisting the unlawful solicitation of money from a convicted felon in violation of Vitale's fiduciary duties as a union officer, a violation of IBT Constitution Article II, § 2(a) and XIX, § 6(b), and in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1954 and 2. The sixth charge filed by the Investigations Officer was withdrawn prior to the Independent Administrator's hearing. The seventh charge alleged that Vitale violated XIX, § 6(b) of the IBT Constitution by filing false and misleading Labor Organization Annual Reports.

The Independent Administrator determined that the Investigations Officer met his burden and demonstrated just cause that Charges One, Two, Three, Four, and Seven had been proved. The Independent Administrator determined that the Investigations Officer failed to meet his burden on Charge Five.

In appealing the Independent Administrator's decision, Vitale argues that: (1) he was denied a fair and impartial hearing; (2) his prior convictions do not bring reproach upon the union; (3) the Administrator's finding that Vitale violated § 16(c) of Local 283's By-laws is not supported by the record and is in error as a matter of law; (4) there is no evidence in the record to support the finding that Vitale fraudulently intended to embezzle funds; and (5) he did not violate his fiduciary duty, and thereby XIX § 6(b) of the IBT Constitution, by filing an incorrect Labor Organization Annual Report. Vitale does not challenge the supplemental opinion.

For reasons to be discussed, the opinion and the supplemental opinion of the Independent Administrator are affirmed in all respects.

I. Standard of Review

It is well settled that with respect to the disciplinary provisions of the Consent Decree, the Investigations Officer and the Independent Administrator are stand-ins for the General President and the GEB, who properly delegated their disciplinary power to those Court Officers pursuant to Article XXVI, § 2 of the IBT Constitution. United States v. Int'l Brotherhood of Teamsters,*fn1 931 F.2d 177, 184 (2d Cir. 1991); United States v. Int'l Brotherhood of Teamsters, 905 F.2d 610, 622 (2d Cir. 1990); May 9, 1991 Memorandum & Order, 764 F. Supp. 797, 799-800 (S.D.N.Y. 1991); May 6, 1991 Opinion & Order, 764 F. Supp. 787, 789 (S.D.N.Y. 1991); December 27, 1990 Opinion & Order, 754 F. Supp. 333, 337 (S.D.N.Y. 1990); September 18, 1990 Opinion & Order, 745 F. Supp. 189, 191-92 (S.D.N.Y. 1990); August 27, 1990 Opinion & Order, 745 F. Supp. 908, 911 (S.D.N.Y. 1990); March 13, 1990 Opinion & Order, 743 F. Supp. 155, 159-60 (S.D.N.Y.), aff'd, 905 F.2d at 622; January 17, 1990 Opinion & Order, 728 F. Supp. 1032, 1045-57, aff'd, 907 F.2d 277 (2d Cir. 1990); November 2, 1989 Memorandum & Order, 725 F. Supp. 162, 169 (S.D.N.Y. 1989); Joint Council 73 et al. v. Carberry et al., 741 F. Supp. 491, 493 (S.D.N.Y. 1990). Hearings conducted before the Independent Administrator are conducted pursuant to the same standards applicable to labor arbitration hearings. (Consent Decree, ¶ F.12.(A)(ii)(e)).

Paragraph F.12.(C) of the Consent Decree mandates that the Independent Administrator must decide disciplinary hearings using a "just cause" standard. (Consent Decree at 9). Paragraph K.16 provides that this Court shall review actions of the Independent Administrator using the "same standard of review applicable to review of final federal agency action under the Administrative Procedures Act." (Consent Decree at 25). This Court will overturn findings of the Independent Administrator when it finds that they are, on the basis of all the evidence, "arbitrary or capricious." May 9, 1991, Memorandum & Order, at 800; December 28, 1990 Opinion & Order, 753 F. Supp. 1181, 1185 (S.D.N.Y. 1990); December 27, 1990 Opinion & Order, 754 F. Supp. at 337; September 18, 1990 Opinion & Order, 745 F. Supp. at 191-92; August 27, 1990 Opinion & Order, 745 F. Supp. at 911; March 13, 1990 Opinion & Order, 743 F. Supp. at 160. This Court and the Court of Appeals have interpreted ¶ K.16 to mean that decisions of the Independent Administrator "are entitled to great deference." United States v. Int'l Brotherhood of Teamsters, 905 F.2d at 616, aff'g, March 13, 1990 Opinion & Order, 743 F. Supp. 155 (S.D.N.Y. 1990).

II. Discussion

A.  Fair and Impartial Hearing

Vitale argues that the Independent Administrator was incapable of giving him a fair and impartial hearing because of prejudicial spill-over resulting from the Independent Administrator's veto of the appointments of IBT member Jack B. Yager to the GEB and as director of the Central Conference of Teamsters. The Independent Administrator vetoed the Yager appointments based on his findings that they would further an act of racketeering, and contribute to the association of the IBT with La Cosa Nostra. See April 18, 1991 Opinion & Order, 761 F. Supp. 315, 320-21, Appendix (Letter-veto of the Independent Administrator) at 334-36. This Court affirmed the Independent Administrator's veto of the Yager appointments in all respects in its April 18, 1991 Opinion & Order. April 18, 1991 Opinion & Order, 761 F. Supp. 315 (S.D.N.Y. 1991).

Vitale contends that the Independent Administrator's findings about the GEB in the Yager matter "necessarily predetermine" the Independent Administrator's findings with respect to Vitale. (Cross-Application ["Cr.-App."] at p. 16). Vitale also argues that in making the Yager determination, the Independent Administrator was confronted with a number of allegations about Vitale that he was not given an opportunity to rebut in his own case. According to Vitale, the Independent Administrator "could not have helped but take these allegations into consideration." (Cr.-App. at 7).

Vitale does not argue that the record in his hearing contains any specific instances of bias or prejudice by the Independent Administrator. Rather, cognizant of the fact that the record is barren of any indication that the Independent Administrator was biased or prejudiced against Vitale in any way, Vitale's argument is directed at the powers delegated to the Independent Administrator. He argues that because the Independent Administrator has many responsibilities under the Consent Decree in addition to disciplinary matters, he cannot perform his adjudicative function without bias or prejudice. There is no basis whatsoever to support this wild argument.

Vitale's internal disciplinary hearing was presided over by the General President's stand-in, the Independent Administrator. The Independent Administrator's powers are specifically enumerated in the Consent Decree and are a subset of those of the IBT General President under the IBT Constitution. See United States v. Int'l Brotherhood of Teamsters, 905 F.2d at 618. The Consent Decree provides that the Independent Administrator, as a stand-in for the IBT General President, is empowered to perform many functions, including the power to veto appointments and decide disciplinary matters. (Consent Decree at ¶ 12(A) & (B)(iii)). The General President's power to carry out these functions is found in Articles X and XI of the IBT Constitution. It is baseless to contend that these responsibilities prevent the Independent Administration or the General President from finding facts impartially and objectively in disciplinary matters.

Under the IBT Constitution, the only ground for removing a hearing officer is that officer's involvement in the matter under review. (IBT Constitution, Art. XIX § 5). There is not one scintilla of evidence or even a bare allegation that the Independent Administrator was in any way involved in the actions which form the bases of the charges brought against Vitale.

In sum, and at the risk of being redundant, the record clearly demonstrates that the Independent Administrator's decision was reached solely on the evidence before him, without fear, sympathy, bias or prejudice. Since the Independent Administrator's exercise of authority under one section of the Consent Decree in no way prejudices his exercise of authority under a different section of the Consent Decree, Vitale's claim that Independent Administrator's veto of Yager necessarily prejudiced him against Vitale is without merit and must be rejected.

B.  Reproach Upon the Union

Vitale argues that: (1) the Independent Administrator's determination that his prior convictions bring reproach upon the IBT is further evidence of bias against Vitale and reversible error; (2) the Double Jeopardy Clause prohibits the imposition of punishment for offenses for which he has already been tried, convicted and punished; (3) the convictions are too remote in time to be relied upon; and (4) the Independent Administrator erred by ...


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