Votes cast months ago, but election still not over

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Following is a timeline of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) election controversy:

May 21: Runoff Set CTU President Deborah Lynch and her slate of officers beat four challengers in union elections, but fail to get a clear majority. The United Progressive Caucus, fronted by Marilyn Stewart, scores a close second to earn a bid in the June 11 runoff.

June 11: Close Vote Stewart and her slate beat Lynch by 566 votes. To avoid charges of fraud that plagued past elections, the American Arbitration Association counts the votes. But voting irregularities and a lack of poll watchers fuel allegations anyway. The organization later reports more than 600 ballots missing.

June 28: Pink Slips Stewart’s lead lawyer, Larry Poltrock, visits union headquarters at the Merchandise Mart to issue pink slips to staff members aligned with Lynch. Stewart says the move was a cordial gesture meant to settle rumors and inform unwanted staff members as soon as possible. “You surround yourself with like ideas, goals and visions,” she says.

Earl Kelly Prince and Marcia Williams, who ran against Lynch and Stewart, are among those fired. Both had taken new jobs with the union in exchange for backing Lynch. Quest Center Director Allen Bearden is also fired.

June 29: Election Quashed The union’s canvassing committee, appointed by Lynch, invalidates election results during a meeting where alleged voter fraud is examined. Among the evidence is a report from a forensics investigator hired by the Lynch team to examine signatures at more than 90 schools.

Committee members learn that 29 signatures on voter registration lists at 16 schools do not match prior signatures found on registration lists, nominating petitions and membership cards. Another 112 signatures on the voter registration lists belong to members who were reported absent by the School Board on election day.

An independent committee member, Judy Dever, says the committee was stacked in Lynch’s favor. She says the compelling evidence boiled down to the 29 suspect signatures. Lynch says, “How much fraud is too much?”

July 1: Locks Changed Amidst a swarm of reporters, Stewart and her supporters knock on the union headquarters’ doors expecting to take office. But Lynch has changed the locks and refuses to relinquish control.

July 2: Legal Maneuvers The Rules and Elections Committee meets and agrees to set a date for a new election. Five days later, they decide to do a mail-only election starting in late August and ending Sept. 13. Stewart files a lawsuit to force Lynch out of office, but U.S. District Judge Mark Filip denies the restraining order, instructing both parties to file briefs on the matter by July 12. Dealing another blow to Stewart, the nation’s labor secretary later posits that the district court has no jurisdiction over the case. Filip takes the comments under advisement and sets an Aug. 9 status hearing.

During the briefing, Stewart’s lawyer, Larry Poltrock, presents a letter signed by Edward McElroy, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), positing that Stewart should serve as president pending a final investigation by the parent organization.

Lynch questions McElroy’s objectivity and authority to speak on behalf of the AFT. Furthermore, she says Poltrock’s recent employment with the AFT and his personal ties to McElroy are a clear conflict of interest.

July 6: Impartial Team Lynch sends a letter to AFT proposing an impartial administrative team assume CTU control until new elections are held. She invites Stewart to join the petition, but Stewart maintains her right to the presidency.

July 8: No Paychecks Amalgamated Bank, which handles CTU’s banking, freezes all assets until confusion over two sets of signatures is resolved. The move effectively freezes union payroll. Stewart calls on all union members to call field representatives and demand Lynch step down.

July 9: Banking Deal Cook County Judge Thomas Quinn presides over a Lynch-Stewart agreement concerning union spending authority. Pay resumes for all union employees, except for 18 officers, managers and directors. July rent for the Merchandise Mart space is paid. All other expenses must be agreed to by both parties before checks are issued. Six days later, a court ruling returns full spending authority to Lynch.

July 12: AFT Investigation At Stewart’s bidding, the AFT executive council decides to formally investigate the contested election. Three AFT vice presidents are chosen to conduct the investigation in Chicago starting July 22. The AFT remains silent on Lynch’s proposal to install an impartial administrative team.

July 14-16: Convention Rights The AFT convention kicks off. Stewart’s United Progressive Caucus sends about 85 of its elected delegates, but they are denied voting rights pending a decision from the AFT executive council. Lynch sends only her officers. Both groups pay their own way at roughly $1,000 a head. Later, the AFT grants voting rights to Caucus delegates, but their votes are sequestered pending a resolution to the Lynch-Stewart struggle.

July 21: Lynch Blasts 2010 Both Lynch and Stewart have deep reservations about Mayor Richard Daley’s Renaissance 2010 plan, but Lynch is first to publicly attack it. At a press conference, she signals to the mayor that union members demand a voice in school closings, regardless of who’s in charge.

July 22-23: Ruling Pending The AFT representatives conduct their investigation in private. A ruling is expected in early August.

To contact John Myers, call (312) 673-3874 or send an e-mail to myers@catalyst-chicago.org.