Cleveland Boss Charged with $14,000 Theft

Cleveland Fire Capt. James M. Oster resigned Apr. 21, two days after pleading not guilty to charges that he stole more than $14,000 from the Cleveland firefighters union.  Oster was the union’s treasurer. Oster allegedly misused the union’s credit card and checking account from at least May 1998 to Dec. 1999. Reportedly, Oster used the money for personal matters. If convicted of grand theft, Oster could be sentenced to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. He is free after posting $5,000 bond. Since Dec. 1999, when the investigation began, Oster has been off work, using vacation and sick leave. Fire Chief Daniel Schue had recommended that Oster be fired, and Eric Rothgery, the city’s safety service director, had said he would make a decision by Apr. 27. [Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 4/18, 4/22/00]

Federal Judge Upholds Ban of New York Bosses
U.S. Dist. Judge Robert W. Sweet upheld the permanent ban of ex-bosses Joseph M. Giardina and Lawrence P. Giardina in April from the Mason Tenders Dist. Council, the Laborers’ Int’l Union of N. Am.’s affiliate in N.Y.C. Not the failed LIUNA “internal reform effort” and its ethically-challenged “in-house prosecutor” Robert D. Luskin, but rather a court-appointed monitor was the one to permanently bar the Giardinas from holding office at MTDC or any of its affiliated entities in Apr. 1999 because they failed to investigate the presence of organized crime within MTDC Local 23 and to take any remedial action.  Unlike the Dep’t of Justice’s sham-oversight deal over LIUNA, MTDC was actually taken over and a court monitor was appointed under a Dec. 1994 Consent Decree.

According to Sweet’s decision, Louis Giardina, the father of the Giardinas and a member of the Gambino organized crime family, served as the Business Manager of Local 23 until mid-1987. In 1986, Louis Giardina was indicted and subsequently convicted on racketeering charges. Specifically, he was convicted of transmitting illegal labor payoffs from Steamfitters Local Union 638 to Paul Castellano, then the boss of the Gambino family.

Both Giardinas were aware of their father’s indictment and the nature of the charges against him. During Louis Giardina’s criminal trial, Joseph Giardina was the President of Local 23 and remained in that position until mid-1987, when Local 23 had its regularly scheduled elections.  Joseph Giardina replaced his father as Business Manager in mid-1987.  Lawrence Giardina became Local 23 President when Joseph Giardina became Business Manager.

Also in 1987, Joseph Delmonico was elected to hold the position of Local 23 Business Organizer, a position supervised by Joseph Giardina. Delmonico, who had not held union office before, was reportedly an associate of the Gambino organized crime family, and he proceeded to appoint various relatives and associates of well-known organized crime figures to shop steward positions at Local 23 job sites. The individuals appointed by Delmonico included John Gotti’s brother, Vincent Gotti, and his nephew, Peter Gotti. Also appointed was Giacomo Giordano, the son of Jack Giordano, a co-defendant in Louis Giardina’s criminal trial.  Delmonico also appointed Jerry Garafola, the nephew of Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, to a shop steward position, as well as Norman Dupont, the “coffee boy” at John Gotti’s Ravenite Social Club. The Giardinas admitted that they didn’t make any effort probe the possibility of organized crime influence within the local.

The Giardinas testified at pre-hearing depositions that they understood that they had a duty as union heads to ensure that Local 23 was free from the influence of organized crime. But, they argued that prior to 1995, when LIUNA adopted its Ethical Practices Code, LIUNA officers had no duty to act in the best interests of their membership by guarding against the presence of organized crime, citing a Aug. 1999 opinion of LIUNA “in-house appellate judge” W. Neil Eggleston against corrupt ex-LIUNA boss Arthur A. Coia. But the Coia case, on which Sweet said the Giardinas mistakenly relied, only confirms the existence of a duty to combat corruption.

Sweet said the Giardinas’ duty was triggered by their knowledge of their father’s indictment and conviction, which revealed his involvement with Gambino family “boss” Paul Castellano in a labor payoff scheme.   After that conviction, the Giardinas became aware of a variety of events indicating that the Gambino influence at Local 23 didn’t end with Louis Giardina’s imprisonment.  In addition to their father and Delmonico, Sweet said numerous other “red flags,” including a 1993 newspaper article, investigative activities by the FBI, and the filing of the Civil RICO suit in 1994 that led to the Consent Decree, provided the Giardinas with overwhelming reason to make some sort of inquiry into the possibility that organized crime had infiltrated their union. [U.S. v. Mason Tenders Dist. Council of Greater N.Y., reprinted in N.Y. Law J. 4/14/00]