In the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, you’re known by the company you keep – at least when it’s the federal government keeping score. As part of its 1989 consent decree with the Justice Department, the union agreed to subject itself to continuous federal oversight. The overseer would be the Independent Review Board, a court-supervised entity authorized not only to kick out corrupt union members, but also other members who knowingly associated with them. The union would retain the right to impose disciplinary action on its members, based on IRB recommendations. Among those caught in the web lately is Francis “Frank” J. Gillen, one of the Teamsters’ most powerful chieftains in Pennsylvania. On August 2, Gillen, an international vice president for the union’s Eastern Region and also president of Local 500 in Philadelphia, was forced out his state and local positions for associating with a former member, Thomas Ryan, who’d been removed more than a decade ago.
Gillen, a resident of Sewell, N.J., is a longtime Teamster with major stature. Not only did he head the 1,250-member Local 500, but he also led both the 140,000-member Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters and Teamsters Joint Council 53, the latter overseeing nearly 20 Teamster locals. In a document dated April 26, 2007, Gillen stood accused of lying to the review board about his contacts with Ryan, formerly head of Local 107, one of the unions in Joint Council 53. The IRB had ousted Ryan back in 1996 for misusing local funds; he later was permanently barred from the union. This February Gillen testified under oath that he had not had contact with Ryan. Yet board documents indicate that the pair had spoken over the phone 95 times during 2000-01.
The Independent Review Board will decide Gillen’s fate on September 11, giving him time to appeal. His lawyer, Andrew Hoffmann of Wiseman & Hoffmann in New York, confirmed that his client would appeal. The Teamsters’ decision, if upheld by the IRB, would prohibit all union officials and members from speaking to Gillen. “The impact of the decision upon Mr. Gillen is devastating for someone who has spent his entire adult life as a Teamster and representing the interests of other workers,” said Hoffmann. While the federally-imposed gag rule may well be too harsh, Gillen can console himself with some serious money. In addition to his four union positions paying a combined more than $230,000, he also receives $48,000 a year as a consultant to the Philadelphia Parking Authority. (Philly.com, 8/9/07).