September 25, 1999
A union member who wants his
union's executive board expelled for allowing a felon to run for
office said the fines imposed recently by a government-appointed
hearing officer are too lenient.
Darrell Smoot is appealing
last month's $ 800 and $ 400 fines against five current and former
officers of Laborers' International Union of North America Local
423, which represents more than 1,400 central Ohio construction
Controversy is nothing new
to Local 423 and its 750,000 member international union.
The Laborers' union had 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 wrongdoing.
In December, Smoot filed charges
with that hearing officer against the union's top officials after
the U.S. Department of Labor determined that the local's newly
elected vice president was ineligible to hold office.
Pat Murphy had been convicted
of second-degree robbery in New York 14 years earlier and, under
federal law, was ineligible to hold office until at least this
But Local 423 members elected
Murphy in June 1998 to the No. 2 position at the union and also
voted him a delegate to the Laborers' District Council, a body
of union representatives.
In January, the labor department
supervised a rerun of both races.
Smoot said before and during
the campaign, he repeatedly told union officials about Murphy's
Murphy spent two years in prison.
Last month, the hearing officer,
Peter Vaira, found that five current and former officers of Local
423 had notice about Murphy's conviction but failed to act.
He fined Murphy and Business
Agent Robert McCaskill $ 800 each; three other members, including
the secretary-treasurer, James Green, each were fined $ 400.
Union officials declined to
Smoot said the fines were slaps
on the wrists and is appealing the penalty portion of the decision.
"My goal was to have them
kicked out of office,'' he said.
Several of those fined also