Reno Wimps Out, Ickes Avoids Independent Counsel

Atty. Gen. Janet Reno controversially chose not to appoint an independent counsel Jan. 29 to probe possible illegal acts by ex-Clinton aide Harold M. Ickes on behalf of the Teamsters.  Ickes, the Clinton Adminstration’s DNC liaison in 1996, is also a longtime union attorney whose clients have had severe corruption problems. The probe would have focused on charges of perjury and campaign finance abuses. Before the Senate’s 1997 Thompson Committee, Ickes vigorously denied that the Clinton Adminstration helped the Teamsters in a dispute with Diamond Walnut Growers. But the Committee later uncovered union memos stating Ickes had urged then-U.S. Trade Rep. Mickey Kantor to intervene, and Ickes’ aide testified that Ickes told her to make sure Kantor followed through. [A.P. 1/29/99]

Hoffa Still Not in Control
Ron Carey-loyalist, Tom Leedham, who failed in his bid to be Teamsters president last year, filed the latest review request Feb. 2 of president-elect James P. Hoffa with the court-appointed elections appeals master Kenneth Conboy. Leedman repeated investigation requests, that some describe as harassment, have kept Hoffa, his slate members and aides from taking over at the union’s Marble Palace headquarters. Hoffa attorney Patrick J. Szymanski called Leedham’s moves “instant appeals” aimed at keeping “legitimate, democratically elected leadership from taking office.”  Leedham’s appeals, Szymanski said, are designed to let allies of humiliated ex-president Carey “continue to draw their salaries and benefits for another few weeks while they sit on their hands and allow the union’s continuing decline.” Szymanski said staffers and officers loyal to Carey have already drawn $3 million in “undeserved salary and benefits.” [Detroit News 2/3/99]

Chicago Boss Guilty of Gambling Ring
Ex-boss Joseph Abate of LIUNA Local 225 was found guilty Jan. 29 of running a sports betting ring that brought him up to $12,000 a week. Police raided Abate’s home in Mar. 1998 seizing $200,000 in bets. Only after his indictment did the failed LIUNA “internal reform effort” suspend him from his $90,000 LIUNA job.  The local remains under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor for alleged mob ties. Abate could get probation or two to five years in prison when sentenced Mar. 10. [Chicago Sun-Times 1/30/99]