The court-appointed administrator charged with cleaning up the Teamsters has recommended that International Vice President George Vitale be banned from the union for five years for allegedly embezzling money from his local union, his attorney confirmed yesterday.
Frederick Lacey, a former federal judge who last month ordered removal of another Teamster vice president, gave Vitale two weeks to respond to his order before asking a federal court to approve his action. Vitale would not only be forced to give up his elective offices, he would also be forced to give up his union membership.
William Rodgers, Vitale's attorney, said Lacey had filed an "extensive report" regarding allegations that Vitale had been involved in an embezzlement scheme in Teamster Local 238 in Wyandotte, Mich., where Vitale also serves as secretary-treasurer.
He said the charges raised by Lacey involve so-called "double-dipping" into union funds and a dispute over an attempt to take a car from the union.
Lacey is expected to rule next week on the fate of Teamster Vice President T.R. "Teddy" Cozza of Pittsburgh, who is accused of knowingly associating with members of organized crime.
Lacey was placed in charge of the day-to-day operations of the Teamsters in 1989 as part of an agreement between the union and the Justice Department to settle a massive civil racketeering suit against the union.
As part of the agreement, the union will hold direct, secret-ballot elections for national officers next year.
The sudden flurry of activity by Lacey comes amid increasing speculation within the union that he has now set his sights on outgoing Teamster President William J. McCarthy in an effort to force him out of office before he retires at the end of next year.
Lacey is preparing a report for the courts on alleged favoritism by McCarthy for shifting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of printing business to his son-in-law soon after becoming president of the union two years ago, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The newspaper reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had undertaken a preliminary inquiry into the printing contract and turned over the results to Lacey in belief that he could deal with the matter more quickly than if the government were to try to pursue criminal charges against McCarthy.
The contract covers printing of the Teamster magazine, which has a monthly circulation of more than 1.6 million. McCarthy has the right, under Teamster by-laws, to award contracts without review.
The change in the printing contract, reportedly worth $350,000 a month, long has been public knowledge, but Lacey's decision to take the matter to the courts reflects his growing frustration in his dealings with McCarthy, according to government sources.
The friction among Lacey, McCarthy and his attorney, Washington lawyer Brendan Sullivan, appeared to have come to a head late last Oct. 23 during a deposition of McCarthy over a proposal, which Lacey formalized last month, to remove Teamster Vice President Jack B. Yager from office. The order must be be approved by the court.
During the deposition, Lacey and Sullivan repeatedly wrangled over what McCarthy could or could not be asked.
When Lacey ordered Yager's removal, he said he also was considering contempt charges against Yager and McCarthy for allowing Yager to continue to participate in union affairs during the investigation.
Several union sources said yesterday they do not expect McCarthy to be able finish his term because of Lacey's intensified efforts.