James D. Ricks, who lost his bid for the presidency of the Washington Teachers Union to longtime president William H. Simons in a special election Saturday, said yesterday that he would challenge the election.
"People were allowed to vote who had not proven that they were members in good standing with the union," Ricks said in a telephone interview. He said his supporters challenged the validity of about 150 ballots cast during the election.
The vote, which was released shortly before 1 a.m. yesterday, showed Simons with 1,411 votes, Ricks with 1,207.
The apparent defeat was a particularly stinging one for Ricks, since he thought he had wrested the presidency from Simons during an election in March. Ricks' narrow victory then, achieved by four votes, was thrown out by a federal judge who found that several union members had not received ballots and that votes were tallied for members who subsequently claimed they had not received ballots.
Simons, the only president in the 19-year history of the union, also saw his supporters elected to all 21 of the other union offices in the weekend election, which was held at the Skyline Inn, South Capitol and I streets SW.
After the election results were announced early yesterday, Simons arrived at a banquet room at the Skyline Inn and addressed a few dozen supporters: "I told you, don't sing any sad songs for me. The curtain had not been drawn, and the fat lady had not sung."
While the gathering chanted "Simons! Simons! Simons," the always conservatively dressed Simons said: "The show is not over yet. I don't know when the next court date will be, but I am fairly certain that we will be back in court again."
"I'm elated right now, but I'll hold my emotions in check until the election is certified," said Luther Shelton, a Beers Elementary School teacher who defeated Ricks' slate member Jeanette Feely for the union's general vice-presidency.
Ricks yesterday indicated that his supporters would file complaints against the election within the 10-day challenge period allowed by the U.S. Labor Department, which monitored the last two union elections.
Ricks said yesterday that many of those his supporters challenged possibly were not union members in good standing because their dues may not have been paid up.
Ricks also charged that the election was again marred by a bad mailing list. Ballots had apparently been mailed out June 1 for the election, but Ricks said that "we were taking people to the Labor Department to get ballots as late as Friday. It stands to reason that I wouldn't have any choice other than to challenge the election."
The fact that several union members did not receive ballots in the mail in the March election, according to the Labor Department, was one of the reasons cited for throwing that election out.
Mac Syphax, one of the Labor Department officials assigned to monitor the latest election, said yesterday that he thought "the mechanics went smoothly."
Ricks has accused Syphax of favoring the Simons' camp.
Simons garnered 269 more votes in Saturday's election than he had in the March, while Ricks only managed to add 61 votes.
Ironically, Ricks defeat came after he challenged the March election that had apparently given him the presidency. Ricks, chairman of the science department at Ballou High School, said he felt there were too many irregularities in that election and wanted a new election for the 20 seats that his slate had lost.
In conducting the review, the Labor Dept. notified Ricks' that any new election would have to be for all offices, and Ricks pressed ahead anyway.
Simons' has remained president throughout, despite an unsuccessful court challenge by Ricks to temporarily remove him from office.
In a sense, the March election that Ricks won 1,146 to 1,142 shook any complacency from the Simons camp, Simons as much as told his supporters yesterday morning. In eight previous elections, he had either run unopposed or won by huge margins.
"I want to thank you for because you left no stone unturned this time," said Simons. "Somewhere along the line, we were going to turn this thing around and keep moving on. We are going to keep moving on."