January 8, 2007
AMO replaces Michael McKay
Michael McKay today resigned as national president of American Maritime Officers following his January 5 conviction on multiple felony counts in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Fort Lauderdale.
To fill the vacancy, the AMO national executive committee -- acting under its authority as provided in the American Maritime Officers National Constitution -- named Thomas Bethel to complete McKay's term in office, which began January 1.
AMO National Secretary-Treasurer Jose Leonard, AMO National Deep-Sea Vice President Joseph Gremelsbacker, AMO National Vice President At Large Edward Kelly and AMO National Great Lakes Vice President Daniel Smith supported Bethel in the unanimous action by the NEC.
Bethel had served as AMO national executive vice president.
Meanwhile, members of the AMO national executive board announced that the board would file suit against McKay and his brother and co-defendant, former AMO National Secretary-Treasurer Robert McKay, to recover money obtained from AMO illegally by Michael McKay and Robert McKay -- both of whom were convicted of racketeering, embezzlement, conspiracy and fraud. The joint union-employer trustees of the AMO Pension, Medical, Vacation and Safety and Education Plans were said to be preparing a similar suit.
In addition, measures were taken to deny Michael McKay and Robert McKay access to union offices, other than to retrieve personal property.
Under federal law, a union official, representative or employee found guilty of any felony must resign his post immediately upon acceptance of the jury's verdict by the presiding judge. But, in McKay's case, the court reportedly agreed to allow McKay additional time in office pending sentencing in March 2007.
However, Bethel, Leonard and Smith were ready to initiate impeachment proceedings against McKay with the unanimous support of the national executive board of AMO had McKay not resigned. This action, which is provided for in Article XXIII of the AMO national Constitution, would have removed McKay from office and from AMO membership.
"The initial actions taken today by the national executive committee and national executive board will help AMO overcome the difficulties linked to the federal government's prolonged investigation of AMO and the AMO Plans and the indictment, trial and conviction of Michael McKay and Robert McKay," Bethel said. "We take our fiduciary responsibilities seriously, and we will do whatever is necessary under U.S. law and regulation and the AMO National Constitution to protect AMO's interests."
Bethel added: "This case caused deep division and concern within our ranks, but recovery and reconciliation are within reach. Meanwhile, I can assure AMO members everywhere that our union remains strong and financially sound. There is new but experienced and responsible leadership, and we as an administration remain committed to long-term job and benefit security for all AMO deep-sea, Great Lakes and inland waters members and their families.
"I look forward to working with everyone on the AMO national executive board and with AMO members in all areas and in all trades," Bethel concluded. "This administration offers accessibility and accountability, and I welcome all comments and questions."