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Trusteeship remains in place at Bath Iron Works union local

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Trusteeship remains in place at Bath Iron Works union local

BATH — A trusteeship imposed on Bath Iron Works' largest union since March 2008 remains in place after a July 10 ruling by a federal judge.

Attorney Leon Rosenblatt said he plans to take the case to a state court to address claims of emotional distress and defamation by his clients – four Local S6 officers who were suspended when the trusteeship was imposed. U.S. District Court Judge George Singal did not rule on those claims, the attorney said Tuesday.

Last May, Mike Keenan, Mike Cyr, Troy Osgood and Cathy London sued the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. They claimed in part that the parent union deliberately took actions to suppress dissent at Local S6.

A letter issued by IAM International President Thomas Buffenbarger at the start of the trusteeship 16 months ago alleged financial improprieties at the local, and said officers allowed pornography to be viewed on union computers.

Keenan, who was the local union president, maintains that he did nothing wrong and is being punished for disagreeing with IAM leadership.

Rosenblatt said Singal entered judgment summarily on the case.

"He entered judgment before trial because he decided that he could decide the case without the need for a jury," the attorney said.

The legal question Singal decided was what the standard was for the court's review, Rosenblatt said, "and the court has a very limited review over a trusteeship for the first 18 months of the trusteeship. And because this is still within the first 18 months he had very little discretion, so he was forced to dismiss the case, but only the federal case."

The attorney added that Singal ruled that "because our standard of proof is so high in the first 18 months, we could not prove that (IAM) had no reason for imposing the trusteeship."

Singal's summary judgment states that "the undisputed evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, demonstrates that the trusteeship was established in good faith for at least one proper purpose."

For example, it states, "Plaintiffs do not dispute that a post-trusteeship inventory revealed more than $26,000 worth of unaccounted-for union label clothing since 2002, when Keenan became President of Local S6."

The document added that since there was "at least one proper purpose" for establishing the trusteeship, the court did not need to consider the plaintiffs' claims of "additional improper motives."

Rosenblatt said he thought it likely that with the judge having ruled, the IAM will render a decision on disciplinary charges against the suspended officers, and that that decision could be to bar some of them from running for office.

"If that happens, I will be bringing a lawsuit in federal court, because it's an illegal discipline," Rosenblatt said, "and in a discipline case, as opposed to a trusteeship case, there is no presumption for the first 18 months ... so our case is stronger at that point."

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.