Charles Ensley, narrowly defeated in his campaign to become exec. dir. of the biggest govt. union in NYC, accused the victorious incumbent, Lillian Roberts, of “smears and untruths” in the campaign. Roberts got 53 pct. of the vote to Ensley’s 47 pct. in the Jan. 27 election of officers of Dist. Council 37, the troubled affiliate of the Amer. Fedtn. of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME). A string of rigged votes on contracts and officers, and nearly $6 million in kickbacks and financial thefts, led to the conviction of more than 30 union officials in the late 90s.
Roberts was first elected to head DC 37 nearly 2 yrs. ago, after the city union was released from a trusteeship imposed by AFSCME. Since then, she has come under fire for a contract awarded to her nephew. Three days after the DC 37 exec. bd. ordered a reconsideration of the award, the nephew, Ivan Smith, gave up the contract in which his law firm — Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard — would represent the council’s employee benefits fund.
One of the original dissenters against the corrupt DC 37 hierarchy in the 1990s, Mark Rosenthal, who became the council’s treasurer, supported reconsidering the contract. He later joined the slate of officer candidates supporting Ensley for president. After his loss, Ensley, who is black, criticized Roberts, who is also black, for using her campaign literature to smear Rosenthal, who is white. Roberts’ mailings to union members repeatedly criticized Rosenthal for making $200,000 as DC 37 treasurer. Ironically, Roberts herself is paid $218,000 a yr. Another mailing accused him of trying to squeeze dues out of poor welfare mothers. “Mark is absolutely beside himself that he was the target of most of the smears and untruths they put out,” Ensley said. [New York Times, 1/29/04]