In November, longtime Philadelphia Teamsters leader Francis "Frank" J. Gillen reached a pinnacle in his union career: election as international vice president for the eastern region of the United States.
Now Gillen, who leads state and regional Teamsters organizations as well as Local 500 in Philadelphia, faces allegations by a federal investigatory board that may cause him to lose all his leadership jobs and his union membership.
"Gillen brought reproach upon the IBT," said a proposed charge filed April 26 by the Independent Review Board, which was established by federal court order in 1989 to root out corruption and mob influences in the Teamsters.
Calls to Gillen's office; his home in Sewell, Gloucester County; and his attorney in Washington were not returned yesterday.
Gillen is charged with lying to the review board about his contacts with Thomas Ryan, the former president of Teamsters Local 107. The federal board ousted Ryan as president in 1996 for misusing money from the Philadelphia union. He later was permanently barred from the Teamsters.
Although it is not clear what will happen to Gillen, people who lie to the review board are usually barred from the union, said John Cronin, administrator of the board.
Under rules established by the review board, Teamsters may not have contact with permanently barred members. In February, Gillen testified under oath that he had not been in contact with Ryan, but phone records showed they spoke on the phone 95 times in 2000 and 2001, according to the review board report.
In an unsuccessful effort to get his disbarment reversed, Ryan had filed a federal lawsuit. Documents filed in that case stated that they had spoken, and that led to the Gillen charges.
Teamsters spokesman Bret Caldwell said yesterday that the union had not had a chance to examine the charges. The Teamsters are in Las Vegas for their annual international convention.
The union has seven business days in which to decide whether it will hold a hearing on the charges against Gillen or ask the review board to hold the hearing. Either way, the hearing must be held and a decision made within 90 days, Cronin said.
Besides his role with the international union, Gillen heads the 140,000-member Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters. He also runs the 60,969-member Joint Council 53, which represents all the Teamsters in the region and includes Local 500 with its 1,249 members, according to U.S. Labor Department records. He receives a salary from all four of his union positions.