SBJ/October 3-9, 2011/Labor and Agents

Tellem’s cousin recuses self from inquiry

Elbert Tellem, the acting regional director of the New York office of the National Labor Relations Board, has recused himself from involvement in the board’s investigation of the unfair labor practices charge brought against the NBA by the National Basketball Players Association because he is the cousin of NBA agent Arn Tellem.

“He has recused himself because he has a relative involved in the industry,” said Nancy Cleeland, NLRB director of public affairs. She said Tellem recused himself in the last few weeks.

Tellem’s action came after it became known that Arn Tellem was part of the group of agents that is considering a strategy different from what the NBPA is pursuing — namely, a path of decertifying the union. Tellem recused himself, a source said, to avoid the potential, or the appearance of, a conflict of interest. He had been involved in processing the NBPA’s unfair labor practices charge against the NBA, but another attorney in the NLRB’s New York office, Karen Fernbach, is now handling it, said this source, who asked for anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Elbert Tellem and Fernbach did not return phone calls. Arn Tellem declined comment.

The NBPA has been pursuing the NLRB claim in hopes that the board will seek an injunction in federal court to halt the NBA lockout. The NBA has said the NBPA’s charge is without merit and has filed an unfair labor practices charge of its own against the union.

The agents who are considering decertification are doing so because they believe it is unlikely the NLRB will seek an injunction to stop the lockout, among other reasons, player-side sources said.

— Liz Mullen

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