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MARTIN v. RADIO-ELECTRONICS OFFICERS' UNION

February 23, 1993

Lynn Martin, Sec'y of Labor, Plaintiff, and Grafton Lee Brown, III, Plaintiff-Intervenor,
v.
Radio-Electronics Officers' Union, District 3, Defendant, and John S. Cooper, Defendant-Intervenor.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES R. RICHEY

MEMORANDUM OPINION OF CHARLES R. RICHEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 I. INTRODUCTION

 Based upon the evidence presented at the hearing on the merits held on October 26, 1992, before the Court, the submissions of the parties, and the applicable law, the Court must conclude that Mr. Weber's election was invalid under both federal statute and regulations, as hereinafter explained. Mr. Cooper must be considered the legitimate holder of the position, and not Mr. Weber, because his election complied with the Union's Constitution and bylaws as well as the LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 481(e), and the Department of Labor ("DOL") regulations, 29 C.F.R. 452.86 (1992).

 ROU acted reasonably in scheduling the 1991 special election after discovering that errors in the distribution of ballots for the regular election caused at least twelve Union members not to have the opportunity to vote. Because the Gulf Coast election was decided by only eleven votes, the twelve members not given the chance to vote could have made a difference in the regular election's outcome. Consequently, and in perfect compliance with the democratic ideals of the LMRDA, the Union acted properly in holding the special election and giving every Union member adequate notice and opportunity to participate in that election. Judgment must be entered for the Union and Mr. Cooper, the Defendant and the Defendant-Intervenor in this case.

 II. BACKGROUND

 Most of the facts surrounding the election are undisputed by the parties. The ROU bylaws require elections to be held every three years, and one such election was held in 1990. See Def.'s Ex. 19, Article 9, Section 3. In May of 1990, in compliance with the bylaws, the Secretary-Treasurer of ROU began preparing for the upcoming December election by notifying radio officers located throughout the world that nominations were being opened for various officer positions of the ROU, including the position of DEC Gulf Coast representative. See id., Article 9, Section 1. Thereafter, from June 26, 1990, to November 5, 1990, notices were sent by the ROU to members reminding them that their quarterly dues must be paid by November 18, 1990, if their ballots were to be counted on December 3, 1990.

 These notices, reminders, and communications were sent only to those members whose names appeared in ROU's computer records. Certain new members, who were serving as apprentices pursuant to a special training program, erroneously had not been entered in the computer records and consequently did not receive any notice of the election or that their quarterly dues must be paid before they could cast ballots in the election. The Secretary does not dispute that these apprentices were "members" of ROU and would have been able to vote in the 1990 election had they paid their quarterly dues by November 18, 1990. *fn1"

 The AAA conducted the ballot count on December 3, 1990. The winner in the DEC Gulf Coast race was Mr. Eric Weber, who won by a margin of eleven votes over Mr. John Cooper. The ballot of one apprentice, Mr. John Overstreet, was challenged and not counted. Upon investigation, the Union subsequently discovered that a number of apprentices had not been entered on the membership lists and had been denied a fair opportunity to pay their dues and vote in the election. The Union decided that a special election would have to be held for the DEC Gulf Coast position because at least twelve members were not given the opportunity to vote in the regular election, and the wrongful denial of their voting rights might have changed the result of the election. Consequently, a special election for the Gulf Coast position was held on March 25, 1991, in which Mr. Cooper was the victor.

 In response to a complaint filed by Mr. Weber, the Department of Labor investigated both the regular and the special election. The Secretary disagreed with the Union's conclusion that the errors made in the regular election affected twelve votes, and concluded that the special election was not necessary. The Secretary filed the above-captioned case in this Court, seeking to have the results of the special election voided and Mr. Weber reinstated to the position of Gulf Coast representative. On November 15, 1991, this Court permitted Mr. Grafton Lee Brown, III, one of the union members, to intervene as a Plaintiff; on February 3, 1992, this Court permitted Mr. Cooper, the victor in the special election, to intervene as a Defendant in this case.

 On August 10, 1992, this Court denied the parties' cross-motions for Summary Judgment because the parties disagreed as to the actual number of votes affected by the irregularities in the balloting of the regular election. The Court held an evidentiary hearing on October 26, 1992, to determine the impact of the irregularities of the 1990 regular election. The Court concludes that, because at least twelve votes were affected by the errors, Mr. Weber's victory in the general election was invalid, and ROU's decision to hold a special election was proper and reasonable.

 III. BECAUSE AT LEAST TWELVE UNION MEMBERS WERE ERRONEOUSLY DENIED THE OPPORTUNITY TO VOTE IN THE REGULAR ELECTION, POSSIBLY CHANGING THE REGULAR ELECTION'S OUTCOME, THE UNION'S DECISION TO HOLD A SPECIAL ELECTION WAS REASONABLE ...


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