Ventura County Teamsters on Friday elected a self-styled reform candidate to head the local union, ousting its leader who was accused of following orders from an ex-convict running things from behind the scenes.
Dennis Shaw won 43% of the vote of Teamsters Local 186, edging out two other candidates, including the union's current leader Greg Boverson, who received 35%.
"The members have spoken," Shaw said. "They have made the change necessary to get the local on the right track."
In the two-week election that ended Friday night, the union's 2,800 members voted in nearly every member of Shaw's slate of reform candidates to the board of trustees and other leadership positions.
Only one candidate associated with Boverson, Mark Weedon, won a seat on the Teamster board.
In a classic Teamster power struggle, the election was marred by allegations of ballot tampering and by late-night gunshots that shattered the windows of one campaign headquarters. No one was hurt.
While the Shaw slate ran against Boverson, much of the campaign focused on Martin W. Fry, who led the local Teamsters until he was convicted of embezzling funds in connection with the firebombing of non-union trucks.
After Fry's release from prison in 1987, Boverson hired Fry, his mentor, as a clerk. Under federal law, as an ex-convict, the only positions Fry can legally hold are janitor or clerk. The two worked closely over the past two years, and a majority of board members tried unsuccessfully to get rid of both of them.
Turning to the membership for help, a majority of the board, led by Shaw, ran a campaign to remove Boverson and Fry. The theme of the campaign was summed up by the headline of one campaign flyer: "Your Local Is Being Run By An Ex-Con."
"I think we cleaned our own house," said Pat Mansfield, the outgoing president of the board who aligned himself with Shaw. "The people decided that Martin Fry was the man to get out and Greg was just a puppet for him, just as we said."
Boverson, who had denied following Fry's orders, accepted defeat graciously Friday night. "The membership has spoken, and we will go on down the road," Boverson said. He congratulated his successor. "As long as he takes care of the membership, he will have my support," he said.
Fry declined to comment Friday.
While the election accomplished the goals of one slate of reform candidates, it was marred by allegations of election tampering from a separate reformist slate.
Ray Gonzales, campaign manager for the separate slate, said that Shaw and Boverson had told him that the polls for the mail balloting would be left open until Monday.
He said his slate had a list of 100 Teamsters who had not received ballots and were mailed duplicate ones on Wednesday. These voting members needed the extension to receive their ballots and return them in time to be counted. At the same time, he said, Boverson and Shaw reneged on their agreement.
Shaw said the election board had considered the extension but decided to stick with its original election date marked on the ballots. He also said the election board has no confirmation that 100 Teamsters never received their ballots. "It is all hearsay," he said.
On Thursday night, police said the windows of the headquarters of Gonzales' slate of candidates were shattered by gunfire.
At 10:49 p.m. Thursday, Oxnard police responded to a call from witnesses who heard four or five gunshots on 5th Street. Officers found bullet holes in the windows of Gonzales' shop.
"One window is completely gone, and the front-door window is ready to shatter," Gonzales said. He said he had no idea who fired the shots but suspected it was Teamster-related.
"Where does this stuff stop?" Gonzales asked. "Are they going to fire a few shots to scare somebody and muscle their way through to hang onto the union?"
Boverson said, "Don't get me mixed up with that. I don't know anything about it."
Shaw said he heard about the violence during the ballot counting. "Emotions run high in these elections," he said.
Shaw and the new board of trustees will take office on Monday. He said he has scheduled a 9 a.m. meeting with Boverson to plan a smooth transition and to discuss long-term changes.
"There will be some immediate changes in staff," Shaw said. "Mr. Fry will be relieved of his duties and responsibilities when we take over Monday morning."
Other officers elected Friday include Oscar Almeida as president of the board, Doug Saint as vice president, Aurora (Junior) Ramirez as recording secretary, and Pat Mansfield, Mary "Romero" Blanchard, and Mark Weedon as board trustees.