The Columbus Dispatch

Feds Order Union Local To Hold New Vote For VP

Officials say the winner's felony record makes him ineligible to hold office In the group, which represents central Ohio construction workers.

By Lornet Turnbull
Dispatch Staff Reporter

DECEMBER 10, 1998

The federal government is ordering a new election at a Columbus union local, saying its new vice president's felony conviction 14 years ago makes him ineligible to hold office.

The U.S. Department of Labor will supervise the Jan. 30 vote at Laborers' International Union of North America Local 423,which represents more than 1,400 central Ohio construction workers. This summer, members elected Pat Murphy to the No. 2 position. Murphy also won the local's delegate seat on the district council, a body of union representatives. That race also will be repeated.

"This is just another sorry chapter in the history of this local," said Joe Motil, one of the candidates for the district council seat. Motil, who lost a bid last month to unseat E J. Thomas in the 27th District for state representative, said he has not decided if he'll make another ran for the union position in January. "I want to continue to work as a reformer in our union and do what I can," Motil said.

In 1984, officials say, Murphy was convicted of second-degree robbery and spent nearly two years in prison - a claim his opponents tried to make but couldn't substantiate during the election campaign. The conviction meant Murphy, under federal law, was ineligible to hold office until 1999

Local 423 officials declined comment yesterday. Murphy who has since vacated the position, could not be reached. His problems are the latest for Local 423 and add to the troubled history of the 450,000-member international union which has been under government scrutiny since 1995, after a Justice Department probe uncovered corruption and racketeering. An independent hearing officer was appointed to help settle internal disputes - ranging from election matters to charges of wrong doing.

"It's unfortunate that we've been under supervision of trusteeships for it the last 20 years and now something like this has occurred," Motil said,

Over the years, Local 423 has faced a variety of problems, which caused it to be placed under trusteeship of the international union. During trustee ships, the local officers were replaced temporarily. Concern about Murphy's eligibility for office initially was raised by Darryl Smoot, who opposed Murphy for the district council seat. He had filed a complaint with the hearing officer, saying Murphy was a felon.

The hearing officer, Peter F. Vaira, an attorney based in Philadelphia, said his office was unable to substantiate the claims, and the protest was later withdrawn. "We went through all the grounds," he said. "This information never got in front of us. It didn't jump out at us." Vaira said another protest was filed with his office, which was investigated by the Labor Department Its labor management division has authority to investigate and rule on union elections and other union matters. , Jack Graczyk, supervisor investigator at the Cleveland offices of the Labor Department; said he could not discuss details of the investigation. He did confirm the department has ordered a new election to decide the vice president's race.

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