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The former head of a Teamsters union local in Miami claims in a new federal lawsuit that she was a sacrificial lamb in the public relations effort of Teamsters union President James P. Hoffa to prove his union can police its own house. Geraldine Pape was fired in October as head of Local 390, which represents movie and television production crews in South Florida. Her suit, filed Feb. 4 against the Teamsters and the local in U.S. District Court in Miami, alleges that she and other local Teamsters leaders got the boot based on trumped-up charges that Hoffa used to justify imposing an emergency trusteeship on Local 390. Even more interesting, her attorney claims that federal prosecutors in Miami secretly fed Hoffa dirt about Pape and other Local 390 leaders to provide grounds to force them out. Pape’s 26-page complaint alleges violations of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, the Labor-Management Relations Act and the Teamsters’ constitution. She is seeking $1 million in compensatory and $3 million in punitive damages. And Pape is asking U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro-Benages to reinstate her as Local 390 president and to block the Washington, D.C.-based international from interfering with Local 390. “The declaration of an emergency trusteeship and proceeding with charges against the Local 390 officers were and remain a sham with a predetermined outcome,” says Pape’s complaint, which was filed by Phillip C. Landrigan, a partner at Lunney Landrigan and Murtagh in White Plains, N.Y. Pape’s local counsel is Donald Bierman, a partner at Bierman Shohat Loewy & Klein in Miami. Landrigan told the Miami Daily Business Review that shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Hoffa removed as Local 390 trustee the man he had appointed last year to replace Pape, Rolando “Roly” Pina. The suit names Pina as a defendant and says he “was involved in encouraging and condoning violence” in picket lines in Miami. Teamsters union spokesman Rob Black in Washington, D.C., had no comment on the lawsuit or on Landrigan’s statement about Pina. According to Pape’s lawsuit, her problem with the Teamsters is that she ran afoul of Hoffa’s Project RISE. RISE stands for respect, integrity, strength and ethics. It’s the anti-corruption initiative Hoffa hopes will convince the feds to end controls on the union that have been in place since a 1989 consent decree ended a racketeering lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, which had alleged the union was riddled with organized crime. The union credits the federally imposed outside controls with getting rid of more than 100 Teamsters who were either mobsters or mob associates. But Hoffa argues that the time has come to get the government’s nose out of the Teamsters union. “We don’t have to have outsiders,” the union declares on its Internet site. “We Teamsters can do it ourselves. That is the essential theme of this [Project RISE] plan.” Pape’s lawsuit contends that Hoffa’s move to oust the Local 390 leadership in Miami essentially was a demonstration project for RISE, which she says has cost “millions of dollars in union members’ dues.” The basis for the international’s actions against Local 390 was the November 2000 indictments of ex-Local 390 President Clarence Lark and other union officials on charges of drug violations, racketeering and money laundering. But rather than investigate what actually happened and who did what, Pape argues, Project RISE investigators took the government’s charges against the local at face value and used those allegations to dump the local’s leadership. In May 2001, however, Lark and all the other defendants were acquitted by a federal jury. That didn’t stop Hoffa from moving against the Local 390 leadership, according to the suit. Hoffa, the suit says, was “determined” to make Local 390 the “poster child” for Project RISE. “Despite the complete vindication of Local 390 in any drug smuggling scheme, in July 2001 Project RISE picked up its investigation determined to use internal union processes to provide a remedy for allegations the government had not and could not prove,” the complaint says. “That investigation relied exclusively on the evidence spoon fed to the investigators by the government and was admittedly coordinated with federal prosecutors before and after their failed prosecution of Lark.” Landrigan said the Teamsters International made those admissions in a January 2002 report commissioned by the union and compiled by Steir Anderson & Malone, the Princeton, N.J., law firm the Teamsters hired to help lead Project RISE. Ed Stier is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Jersey. The report was the basis for union charges by Hoffa against Pape and other Local 390 officers. Among the charges was an assertion that the Local 390 officers violated union rules by having contact with Lark after Lark was barred from the union in 1996 for taking kickbacks. The report doesn’t identify the federal prosecutors who allegedly dished out dirt about Pape. “I assume it’s the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami,” Landrigan said in an interview. There are certain links between Lark and Pape. Don Bierman, Pape’s co-counsel, represented Lark at trial. And Pape was a witness at Lark’s trial and came to know him during the trial, Bierman said. Bierman said, however, that the two have not been in contact since 1996. Jacqueline Becerra, spokeswoman for Miami U.S. Attorney Marcos Jimenez, declined comment. The union charges against the Local 390 officers were to be heard in May 2002 by a panel of three Teamsters appointed by Hoffa. But the hearing was canceled, Pape’s lawsuit says, after Pape’s lawyers obtained videotaped testimony from four “informants to the Project RISE/Steir Anderson & Malone investigation contradicting their earlier testimony.” Six months later, Pape was fired. Hoffa installed Pina, a board member of Teamsters Local 769 in Miami, as trustee of 390. Pina was among 10 Teamsters who were sued in 1999 for their alleged involvement in a bloody attack on ex-University of Miami linebacker Rod Carter. Carter, a driver for United Parcel Service, was allegedly beaten and stabbed with an ice pick by Teamster thugs who were upset that he’d worked during the Teamsters’ nationwide strike against UPS in 1997. Local 769 paid an undisclosed amount in 2001 to settle the case.

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