Keshia Clukey

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Utica union coalition backs 2 school board candidates

Posted by keshiaclukey on May 22, 2013 at 11:05 AM

Utica union coalition backs 2 school board candidates

BY KESHIA CLUKEY

[email protected]

See original at uticaod.com.

UTICA — Union support can be crucial in local elections to help provide money for everything from signs to hosting forums.

The Coalition of Utica City School District Unions opted to back two of the six candidates for the May 21 school board election— Robert Jenkins and incumbent Donald Dawes.

But no screening process was used.

“We didn’t go out and screen, we don’t have to,” said Utica Teacher's Association President Larry Custodero. “Together the groups came up with the candidates.”

The coalition includes the Teacher’s Association, the Utica Retired Teachers Association, the Service Employees International Union, the Utica Administrators Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 43. The total amount pledged is not yet available.

“Sometimes we don’t support anybody, sometimes two candidates, sometimes one,” Custodero said.

In the past, the unions have screened candidates, interviewing all of them and then deciding who to support. The decision is made by the representatives, and doesn’t always go before every union member.

The unions look for fair and impartial candidates who listen, Custodero said.

Candidate Michael Paul sent a letter announcing his candidacy but was disappointed not to hear from any of the unions, he said.

Paul wasn’t interviewed due to family ties, chiefly his wife, Elizabeth Paul, who is the district administrator of Special Education Services, Custodero said.

“Even though it’s not a conflict of interest, we feel it’s very close to a conflict,” Custodero said. “We wouldn’t have supported him.”

Paul said if elected, he would recuse himself from any votes in which his family would directly benefit.

Paul is now left to his own devises, as he hasn’t received backing from any other organizations, he said. “I think in all fairness they should have screened all the candidates (to) find out (what) their views were.”

The groups decided to back Dawes because they had in previous years, Custodero said. “He’s been there to listen.”

Jenkins was brought up as a candidate because one of the union presidents knew him and knew he had children in the district, he said. They met with Jenkins and then group representatives made their decision.

“He’s well educated … he seems like a good man. He’s willing to listen,” Custodero said.

The Teamsters Union Local 182 is not included in the coalition.

Local representatives said they have not officially backed anyone, but may before Tuesday’s election.

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