Roy L. Williams, interim president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), faces growing opposition at the union's convention in Las Vegas next week after being indicted on federal charges of trying to bribe Sen. Howard W. Cannon (D) of Nevada to support a trucking deregulation bill.
Western Teamsters officials and other anti-Williams groups were quick to question the candidacy of Mr. Williams for election to the post opened on the passing of frank E. Fitzsimmons a month ago. One leader from the Northwest said that "it's a shame" the union faces a prospect of continuing charges and public suspicion of internal corruption and ties to organized crime.
The opposition appears doomed to failure. Williams, who denies all charges against him as "lies," was designated interim president of the IBT with solid support from executive board members. As long as the board feels that way, his election is certain.
Ray Schoessling, secretary-treasurer and No. 2 officer of the union, confirmed in Washington on May 22 that Teamster executive board members still "unanimously" support Williams and believe in his innocence.
However, the the Teamster president faces a number of challenges:
* Williams and three Central States Pension Fund trustees -- Allen M. Dorfman , Thomas F. O'Malley, and Andrew G. Massa -- and Joseph Lombardo, frequently mentioned in crime inquiries, face prosecution, and prison terms if convicted, on the Cannon charges.
* The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation, which has been probing into the Central States Pension Fund, last week issued a 19-page report recommending legal action to oust Williams as Teamsters president if he continues to refuse to answer questions about ties to organized crime and his alleged violations of responsibilities as a fund trustee.
* Secretary of Labor Raymond Donovan is reserving comments "for now" on the Williams indictment and the Senate recommendations. He is studying both reports. The Labor Department has the authority under the Landrum-Griffin Act to demand "an accounting from Roy Lee Williams as fiduciary (trustee) of the pension fund" and, says Sen. Sam Nunn (D) of Georgia, "it has the obligation to seek his removal if he refuses to give such an accounting." Senator Nunn chaired the Senate subcommittee hearings in 1980.
When Williams appeared before the subcommittee last Aug. 26, he invoked the Fifth amendment 23 times in refusing to answer questions about alleged ties to reputed underworld figures in Kansas City and in connection with his 22 years as a union pension fund trustee.
Williams has acknowledged knowing Nicholas Civella, one of those named, but has denied knowing anything about Mr. Civella's "personal business." Williams also has angrily denied any wrongdoing in pension fund or other Teamsters affairs.
The federal grand jury indictment last week -- a separate action -- alleges that Williams and his codefendants offered Senator Cannon a 5.8-acre tract of Las Vegas property at a low price in return for favorable action on a trucking deregulation bill supported by the union.
"The charges are a lie," Williams said in Washington. "I have and will continue to fight deregulation with every ounce of energy in my body in an open and honest manner. . . . "