6/13/08

Barack's Town: Judge halts corruption clean-up

Steps in to protect union official from members

A Cook County judge on Thursday afternoon prevented Chicago Teachers Union officials from holding a meeting to oust the vice president. The meeting to discuss removing Ted Dallas, who has been involved in an ongoing dispute with President Marilyn Stewart over the spending of union money, had been scheduled for Thursday evening.

Stewart and others say Dallas has improperly used union money to pay for restaurant meals and to pay himself for sick days. Dallas counters that Stewart has mismanaged the union's finances and spent about a half-million dollars on food over a 12-month period.

In her ruling, Chancery Court Judge Dorothy Kinnard said Dallas and his opponents should be able to settle their own disputes. Kinnard suggested they meet with a mediator to settle the infighting that has divided the 30,000-member union. Kinnard's order banning the meeting to discuss firing Dallas is effective until at least July 7.

The union has long had a history of division. In 2004, Stewart and former CTU President Deborah Lynch were involved in a hotly disputed election that culminated with Lynch locking Stewart's group from the union's headquarters.

"This organization of highly educated individuals should be able to resolve its own disputes," Kinnard said. "It's an extremely unfortunate dispute."

But in her ruling, Kinnard sided with Dallas, who sought a temporary injunction after he said he was sandbagged at a May 28 meeting with the board's executive board. Dallas said the meeting was orchestrated by Stewart.

At that meeting, the executive board voted for permission to proceed with a "trial" against Dallas to remove him from his post. Kinnard ruled that "fundamental fairness" was denied Dallas.

In her view, Dallas was not given enough time to defend himself. Kinnard also said that Stewart failed to tell executive board members that the union had never sought to kick out a member using a provision of its bylaws that is usually reserved for strike-breakers.

(chicagotribune.com)

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