The former federal judge charged with cleaning up the Teamsters has ordered one of the union's top officers removed, claiming he would leave the union "vulnerable" to further infiltration by organized crime if he remained in office.

Frederick B. Lacey, in court papers filed in New York, said he was ordering removal of Jack B. Yager as a Teamster vice president and director of the union's politically powerful Central Conference. Lacey cited Yager's "silence and incomprehensible passivity" about union corruption during his years as a top aide to late Teamster President Roy Williams. That history, Lacey said, would send a signal to organized crime that Yager might be approachable.

Lacey also told the court he is considering contempt charges against Teamster President William J. McCarthy for ignoring a warning not to allow Yager to assume the two offices until the government completes an investigation of Yager's past. Sources close to the probe suggested Lacey's call for contempt charges might be a signal he wants the Justice Department to go after McCarthy.

The 1.6 million-member union was placed under what amounts to federal trusteeship in early 1989 to settle a massive racketeering suit in which the Justice Department accused the Teamsters of being little more than a wholly owned subsidiary of organized crime.

As part of the settlement, Teamsters leaders agreed to hold the first secret ballot elections for national officers in union history. The two-stage election process, to be completed next December, will be the biggest government-supervised election in U.S. labor history.

Lacey is expected to decide by mid-December whether to remove at least two other Teamster vice presidents, according to sources close to the review.

The union and Yager have two weeks to appeal Lacey's move. A spokesman for the union said it is "inappropriate" to comment while an appeal is studied. Neither Yager nor his attorney were available for comment.

Essentially, Lacey's case against Yager is that Yager could not have associated with Williams as long as he did without knowing about Williams's ties to Kansas City La Cosa Nostra boss Nick Civella. Williams, who was convicted of racketeering for trying to bribe then-Sen. Howard W. Cannon (D-Nev.) in connection with trucking deregulation legislation, testified that he took orders from Civella during most of his union life.

"Given Mr. Yager's close relationship with Mr. Williams, one cannot adequately consider Mr. Yager's appointment without first considering certain aspects of Mr. Williams' sordid career," Lacey said in a letter to Teamster General Counsel James Grady. He said Yager acknowledged during a deposition that he was aware of news reports going back to the early 1980s connecting Williams with organized crime, and yet he failed to speak out.

In addition, Lacey said, McCarthy "testified he did not even remember that Mr. Williams had testified that while he {Williams} was general president he was under the control of Kansas City mob boss Nick Civella."