Copyright 2003, Traffic World, Inc.

It''s been three weeks since I reported the trouble facing the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes and I promised an update when BMWE officials deigned to comment. Their comment, sparse as it is, came two and a half weeks after union attorney William A. Bon promised it would be posted on the web by day''s end.

The U.S. Department of Labor is suing the railroad union, accusing three officials of misconduct during the 2002 union election. Labor is seeking new elections for the offices of Grand Lodge President, Grand Lodge Secretary-Treasurer and Canadian Grand Lodge Vice President.

Those seats were won by Mac Fleming, Freddie N. Simpson and Ken Deptuck, but Fleming is now on medical leave and Secretary-Treasurer Simpson is acting president. The lawsuit alleges Fleming took money from an employer to help in his re-election campaign, that Simpson and Deptuck used union equipment to send out campaign literature, and that a union secretary helped Deptuck in his campaign.

Bon''s news release was an interesting composition.

First, it blamed the allegations on "the Bush Administration''s Secretary of Labor," suggesting a political motivation or an antiunion bias. The BMWE has endorsed Democrat Richard Gephardt for president in 2004.

But the charges came from within the BMWE itself. BMWE Pennsylvania Federation General Chairman Jed Dodd and another union member, G.D. Housch, made the allegations more than a year ago. The two sent their allegations to the Department of Labor after Fleming dismissed the charges last February.

Second, the release said the Grand Lodge officers "carefully examined" the charges "with the assistance of internal and external legal counsel." With that comment they ignored some members'' requests that the accused officers not be allowed to use union lawyers to defend their activities.

Third, the statement hedged big time, saying that after the careful examination they concluded that "based on the analysis and the information available to us thus far, we believe the action taken and requested by the Secretary of Labor may not be valid and/or warranted." Saying that it "may not be valid" suggests they have not ruled out that it is both valid and warranted, and the reference to "information available" suggests that they want to see what the Department of Labor has in the way of evidence beyond the few facts in the lawsuit.

As of Aug. 6, the union had not filed a legal response to the U.S. District Court lawsuit.

On the management side of the railroad updates, former Surface Transportation Board Chairman Linda Morgan has a new job beginning Sept. 3: heading the transportation practice at Covington and Burling, a prestigious law firm here in town that represents Union Pacific. Morgan replaces J. Michael Hemmer, who departed to become Union Pacific''s vice president-law, effective Sept. 1. In his role at Covington and Burling, Hemmer was Union Pacific''s primary outside regulatory counsel. His predecessor as vice president-law, James V. Dolan, also came from a prestigious Washington, D.C., law firm and has been elevated to vice chairman at UP.

That puts Morgan into position for what could be an impressive second career with Union Pacific. As STB chairman, Morgan wrote many decisions favorable to UP, including approval of its merger with Southern Pacific and its denial of the Canadian National merger with BNSF, which UP opposed.

It''s tempting to wag a finger and tut about conflict of interest, but can you expect someone who developed a legal expertise in railroads and transportation during many years of lower-paying government jobs to switch to an unrelated field when it comes time to head to the private sector?