BATH — The head of Bath Iron Works’ largest union is dismissing a no-confidence vote held Saturday, saying he believes he has the backing of his membership.

Mike Keenan, president of the Local S6 machinists union, didn’t attend Saturday’s meeting where about 100 members voted no confidence in his leadership following in-fighting within the union’s management. Keenan said the gathering represented less than 3 percent of Local S6, which has more than 3,500 members.

As for the vote of no confidence, “I don’t even know what the heck that is,” Keenan said. “I was voted in by over 1,300 members who wanted me to go over there and clean up the union. I was overwhelmingly put into office to protect them, their rights and their money.”

The vote followed action by Keenan, who earlier this month filed charges against two union officers with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Grand Lodge. Among the charges Keenan made against Secretary/Treasurer Jason Perry and Chief Steward Ray Gauthier were incompetence, negligence and insubordination. On Saturday, a trial board of three local union members recommended striking the charges against Gauthier.

Speaking Tuesday, Perry and Gauthier characterized Keenan’s actions as politically motivated. The two called it retribution after they turned to the national organization for help dealing with Keenan, whom they said did not comply with direction from the national organization regarding internal operations.

According to Perry, 110 people attended a general membership meeting Saturday, a much higher turnout than the monthly meetings normally draw. All but 12 voted in favor of a motion of no confidence against Keenan made by one of the members present.

In letters published by the Bangor Daily News, Keenan claims Gauthier and Perry have failed to execute their duties and have refused to follow his orders. Gauthier characterized Keenan as the fly in the ointment at a time when the union is poised to do a lot of good.

Perry acknowledged the no-confidence vote means little from a procedural standpoint, but it speaks to the solidarity of the membership, he said.

“The very fact that the motion was brought up speaks volumes,” he said.

Keenan said he had no choice but to file what are called trial board charges. He said he was offended to be accused of exacting retribution.

“I get that they’re angry and I get that they got their friends to come to a meeting,” Keenan said. “I’m not the one who didn’t file taxes. When I find out that someone is not doing something required under our constitution, if I don’t react, then I’m at fault.”

Keenan said he has nothing personal against Gauthier or Perry, but the violations he claims took place could carry legal penalties and even jail time.

“The charges were put in place because violations are not going to be tolerated, it’s just that simple,” Keenan said. “You can’t fabricate improprieties.”

Gauthier was accused of not showing up for mandatory meetings, refusing to comply with directives and failing to properly account for lost-time reimbursements for union representatives. The trial board for Gauthier, made up of three local union members, recommended striking all those charges on Saturday.

“There was not a single person who did not agree,” Perry said.

Keenan claimed Tuesday that the trial board recommendation stemmed from a technicality regarding how he wrote the charges.

“Just because someone goes to a meeting and makes a motion that we’re removing a trial board because Mike Keenan didn’t put in a certain date or period, has nothing to do with the validity of the charges,” Keenan said.

He said he will appeal the decision of Gauthier’s trial board committee.

Perry argued the details are important.

“Mike is claiming a technicality, but if you read how trial boards are supposed to work, it’s very clear you have to be specific in the charges because we take these charges very seriously,” Perry said.

While Keenan argues filing the trial board charges was a last resort, Perry argues there was no effort to try to resolve the issues. Last year, he said he didn’t know what an IRS 1099 form was – a document required by the IRS for entities to maintain their nonproft status – and filed those tax documents as soon as he realized he had to. He was elected as an executive officer for the first time 2½ years ago.

“So for (Keenan) to charge me with that is purely political,” he said. “I’ve tried to do the best I can here and I had zero knowledge when I started and zero support from my president.”

As an executive board officer, Perry’s trial board charges will be handled by the union at the national level.

Perry and Gauthier both pointed to 2008 when Keenan previously served as president of Local S6. Officials with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers removed him from office for financial impropriety and downloading pornography on work computers; claims that Keenan has denied. He was barred from running for union office for four years following his removal.

“There’s only one common denominator here,” Perry said Tuesday. “Charges like this and this sort of environment happened back in 2008. We were put under trusteeship. … He is the only person from 2008 that is here today. … Yet here we are again, embroiled in more controversy.”

When asked about his removal in 2008, Keenan said he took responsibility for his subordinates not doing what they were supposed to do.

“That’s precisely why I’m taking action right now,” he said. “The IAM gave me a blueprint on how to run a local lodge through the trusteeship of 2008. I’m using that blueprint to build back that union hall.

“That’s a valid question. Nobody knows more about what not to do than me.”

[email protected]