INVESTIGATIONS: The Teamsters Take Over

  • Share
  • Read Later

Nail by nail, board by board, the special Senate committee headed by Arkansas Democrat John McClellan continued hammering together its case against U.S. labor racketeering. As in the first week of its Washington hearings (TIME, March 11), the McClellan committee centered its attention on the activities of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Portland, Ore., and again the star witness was Portland Racketeer James B. Elkins. Last week Elkins—and some corroborating witnesses—told how Teamsters' representatives, stymied in their original efforts to open the city to vice, simply took over the municipal government.

Elkins had testified that he had entered into a Portland vice partnership with Seattle Gamblers Tom Maloney and Joe McLaughlin and that they were acting as the rackets' representatives of their good friend, West Coast Teamsters' Boss Frank Brewster. Elkins said he had given Maloney and McLaughlin $20,000 in eight months as their cut of the operation, but they had nonetheless decided he was holding out. For his part, Elkins thought he was being doublecrossed by Maloney and McLaughlin—and he had done something about it. He had wired their hotel rooms and made tape recordings of their private conversations, especially with Teamster-sponsored Multnomah County District Attorney William Langley.

The Official Message. Thus, Elkins said, he had heard Maloney. McLaughlin and Langley plotting to have Teamsters' Oregon Representative Clyde Crosby go to Republican Mayor Fred Peterson to urge the ouster of a police chief who had refused to cooperate. Said Elkins: "They were trying to figure a way or something that the mayor could hang his hat on to remove the chief of police. It didn't occur to them that [the mayor] might be honest, or not go along with them."

At that point, Committee Counsel Robert Kennedy introduced into the record an affidavit from former Mayor Peterson. Clyde Crosby, said Mayor Peterson, had indeed come to him trying to get rid of Police Chief J. Bardell Purcell. Said Peterson: "Sometime in December of 1955, Clyde Crosby came to my office and stated that he had an official message, and 'I have to give it to you. Brewster, Sweeney [the late John Sweeney was secretary-treasurer of the West Coast Teamsters] and I have talked this over, and I have been instructed to tell you that if Purcell continues to be chief of police, we will have to find another candidate for mayor to support.' "

Mayor Peterson refused to fire Chief Purcell, and the Teamsters found another candidate. He was Multnomah County Sheriff Terry Schrunk, who had, according to last week's testimony, all the qualifications the Teamsters sought.

The Manila Envelope. While still sheriff in September 1955, Schrunk and his deputies had raided the 8212 Club, a gambling and after-hours drinking joint financed by Jim Elkins and operated by one Clifford Bennett. Elkins testified that Bennett told him he had paid Schrunk $500, and the sheriff had gone away without causing any more trouble—except for arresting a few drunks.

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2