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Serafinn v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters

August 28, 2006

MARK SERAFINN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, LOCAL UNION NO. 722; STEVEN MONGAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS PRESIDENT OF LOCAL 722; AND JOINT COUNCIL 65 OF THE INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, INTERNATIONAL UNION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Mark Serafinn ("Plaintiff" or "Serafinn") brings this action under §§ 101(a)(1), (2), (a)(5) and 609 of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (the "LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 401 et seq., against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local Union No. 722 ("Local 722"); Steven Mongan, the President of Local 722 ("Mongan"); and Joint Council 65 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("the Joint Council" or "JC 65") (collectively "Defendants"). Two members of Plaintiff's local union, Richard Williams and Lynwood Gowan, brought internal union disciplinary charges against Plaintiff. The charges alleged that Plaintiff violated union rules when he referred himself out to a project at a joint venture known as Newberg-Perini Stone & Webster ("Venture"), in place of other union members that were ahead of Plaintiff on the referral list. After a hearing, the panel reviewing the charges found that Plaintiff "brought reproach upon the Union in violation of his oath and obligations as an officer and member of Local 722 by scheming and implementing a scheme to take a job with the Venture to which other members had already been properly referred." The panel ordered Plaintiff to compensate the other members for their lost wages and benefits and suspended him from the union for a period of six months. Plaintiff alleges that the charges were brought against him in retaliation for exercising his rights under the LMRDA. Plaintiff also alleges that his disciplinary hearing lacked the procedural safeguards guaranteed by the LMRDA. Plaintiff seeks a restoration of his union rights, injunctive relief to prevent future retaliation and compensatory and punitive damages. Defendants have counterclaimed for payment of the fines assessed against Plaintiff.

There is no genuine issue as to any material fact that Plaintiff received the procedural safeguards guaranteed under the LMRDA, therefore, Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff's § 101(a)(1) and (a)(5) claims. Genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether the charges against Plaintiff were brought for the purpose of retaliating against his exercise of rights protected in the LMRDA. But because the evidence of retaliation implicates only Steven Mongan and Local Union 722, Plaintiff's §§ 101(a)(2) and 609 claims against JC 65 are dismissed. Plaintiff also has failed to identify any genuine issue of material fact that would preclude judgment as a matter of law on JC 65's counterclaim. Wherefore, JC 65's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted and Local 722's and Steven Mongan's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part. Defendants' Motion to Strike Portions of Plaintiff's Statements of Additional Facts and Declarations is granted in part and denied in part as reflected in this memorandum opinion and order.

BACKGROUND

Mark Serafinn joined the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("IBT") in 1977. Local Union No. 722 is a labor organization affiliated with the IBT. Local 722's offices are located in LaSalle, Illinois. Joint Council 65 is the subordinate body of the IBT with which all IBT local unions in central and southern Illinois are affiliated. The delegates to JC 65 consist of the seven executive officers of each local union. Serafinn was elected President of IBT Local 722 in September 1992. Serafinn remained President until the end of 2001 when Steven Mongan defeated him in a close election. The six other members of Serafinn's slate -- Michael R. Reilly, Richard A. Halfman, Bradley A. Miller, Betty Ann McInnes, George G. Harden and Ronald D. Ruberstall -- won election that year. Serafinn challenged the results of the election without success.

The disciplinary charges brought against Serafinn involved his referral of himself to Venture. This referral allegedly violated union referral rules because other union members were ahead of him on the referral list and already had been referred to Venture. Richard Halfman, the elected Vice-President of Local 722, held the appointed position of Referral Officer for Local 722 from February 1995 until December 24, 2001. George Harden, a Local 722 trustee, and others assisted Halfman in making referrals. Harden was responsible for making referrals to Venture. Venture operates two nuclear power plants for Commonwealth Edison in Local 722's jurisdiction. On December 10, 2001, Venture sent Local 722 a request for a "recall for hire" of Edward Notschaele for an "outage" at the LaSalle County power plant, to report on December 17. On December 14, Venture sent an additional request for one "CDL qualified" Teamster, to report on December 26. And on December 17, Venture sent Local 722 a third request for two "CDL qualified" Teamsters, to report on January 2, 2002. On December 18, Harden sent a fax to Venture naming Patrick Mulligan and Al Gowan as the "2 Teamsters for Comm-Ed, Marsailles, IL." On December 21, Harden sent Venture another fax stating that Timothy Craig and Mary E. King should replace the names in the last fax. Patrick Mulligan, Al Gowan, Timothy Craig and Mary E. King all signed Local 722's referral book. The last time Serafinn signed the referral book was on December 15, 1992, several weeks before he became President of Local 722.

Serafinn requested that Halfman refer him to Venture. Halfman refused. On December 24, Serafinn asked Halfman to come to the union hall. When Halfman arrived at the hall, Serafinn gave him a letter stating:

As of December 24, 2001 you are no longer the Referral Officer of Local 722. Please return to me all materials relating to the referral system immediately.

Fraternally,

Mark R. Serafinn, President Teamsters Local Union #722 At 12:49 p.m. on December 24, a fax was sent from Local 722 to Venture in Serafinn's handwriting stating as follows:

PLEASE DELETE: TIMOTHY CRAIG

[address and soc. sec. #] )

TEAMSTER FOR COMM-ED

PLEASE ADD: MARK R. SERAFINN MARSAILLES, IL

[address and soc. sec. #]

Serafinn's term as President of Local 722 expired on December 31, 2001. Serafinn showed up at the training site for Venture on the morning of January 2. Craig, Gowan and King did not show up on January 2.

Williams and Gowan filed charges against Plaintiff on January 17 and January 22, 2002, respectively. Each charge accused Serafinn of misusing his union office to refer himself out to Venture in front of other members on the referral list. On January 27, the Local Union 722 Executive Board held a special meeting. In addition to members of the Executive Board, William Moore, a representative of the International Union was present. The minutes of that meeting state:

Michael Reilly introduced two separate charges one from Mr. Lynwood Allan Gowan and James Richard Williams against Mark Serafinn.

Motion by Ronald Ruberstell seconded by George Harden to send these charges to Joint Council #65 for a decision. Motion carried. Motion brought forth charges against Mr. Serafinn. Motion by Michael Reilly seconded by Betty Anne McInnes to send these charges to Joint Council #65 for a decision, due to a conflict of interest. Motion carried.

On January 28, Mongan filed separate charges against Serafinn for Serafinn's alleged interference with union affairs and intimidation of union members. On January 29, Michael Reilly, Secretary-Treasurer on Local 722, sent a letter to JC 65 stating that the Local 722 Executive Board unanimously had requested that the charges brought by Mongan, Williams and Gowan each be forwarded to JC 65 for disposition. Mongan sent a similar letter on February 6, adding that it was necessary to refer the case because a majority of the Local Union Executive Board -- himself, Halfman, Harden and Reilly -- were involved or would testify.

On February 8, JC 65 President Keith E. Gleason sent a letter to the parties stating that JC 65 had determined that in accordance with Article XIX, Section 1(a) of the International Constitution that the charges were by, against, or involving a majority of the members of the Local 722, and thus the Secretary-Treasurer must file the charges with the JC 65 Executive Board instead of the Local 722 Executive Board. In response, Serafinn wrote Gleason that Mongan and Reilly had misrepresented the Local Executive Board's proceedings and that, in fact, a majority of the Local Executive Board had told him that the charges were dismissed because they lacked merit, were filed improperly and were too vague and misleading to process. Gleason replied that if Serafinn's allegations were true he should support them at his February 28 hearing, where he would have the opportunity to challenge the Joint Council's jurisdiction.

On February 19, JC 65 received a letter from Mongan amending his charges against Serafinn. Because the charges could not be served on Serafinn more than ten days before the February 28 hearing, as the IBT Constitution required, Gleason denied the proposed amendments. Three days before the hearing, Serafinn faxed a letter to Gleason again contesting the jurisdiction of JC 65 and arguing that the charges were not specific enough for him to prepare his defense. Gleason agreed that Mongan's charges lacked the required specificity and ordered them not to be heard at the February 28 hearing. Gleason, however, found that the claims filed by Gowan and Williams were specific enough -- "[t]hey contain names, dates and places and, though written by lay people, spell out the general nature of the charged violation."

Serafinn's disciplinary hearing was held on February 28, 2002, before the JC 65 Executive Board in Springfield, Illinois. Local 722's representative recused himself from the matter, which was heard by representatives from the other local unions. The Chair of the hearing panel was Keith Gleason, President of JC 65. Serafinn, Halfman, Harden, Reilly, Mongan and Gowan each testified at the hearing. Mongan acted as the prosecutor of the claims and Serafinn defended himself. Gerry Miller acted as JC 65's legal advisor during the hearing. International Representative William Moore also attended the hearing.

Richard Halfman testified first at the hearing. In addition to the events regarding Serafinn's referral to Venture, Halfman testified about referral practices during his eight years as the primary referral agent for Local 722. Halfman testified that when he received a request for a union member, he sent out the member at the top of the referral list, unless another member had seniority with the requesting corporation. Members were organized on the referral list by the date that they submitted their referral card; the earliest dates were at the top of the list. In order to submit a referral card, a union member must not have been actively employed. After a member was employed for five days, their name was removed from the referral list. On cross-examination, Halfman admitted that this referral practice varied on a few occasions during his tenure.

George Harden then testified that, as a referral officer assisting Halfman, he was responsible for communicating directly with Venture regarding their need for union members. Harden repeated Halfman's testimony regarding the events leading to Serafinn's referral to Venture. Harden also confirmed that he and Halfman used the referral process that Halfman described. On ...


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