Michael Nelson's blog

Fugitive Witness Back, Ex-Boss' Son Gets Lesser Sentence

A possible mob-intimidated witness, Richard DeSantis, turn himself in Nov. 20 after evading Chicago police and the FBI for 7 months. He faces 3 years in prison for obstruction of justice. Due of his absence and the death of another prosecution witness, two of three defendants in a hate-crime case worked out a plea bargain and got merely probation for their roles in a racially motivated beating. Defendant Frank Caruso's father and brother, Frank and Bruno, were powerful bosses in the Laborers' Int'l Union of No. Am. in Chicago. Both were ousted this year by LIUNA for alleged links to organized crime. (Both have not faced criminal charges demonstrating the weakness of LIUNA internal reform effort.) Further, DeSantis' father has been identified as a reputed mob bookmaker for an alleged gambling boss, Angelo LaPietra.

New York Probe Gobbles It's First Union Turkey

Am. Fed. of State, County & Municipal Employees Local 1251 boss Joseph DeCanio pled guilty Nov. 20 to embezzling $50,000 over 4 years as part of a kickback scheme that provided thousands of free Thanksgiving turkeys to members. He split the funds with another Local 1251 boss, Bessie Jamison. The action was part of expanding probe by the Manhattan Dist. Attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, into allegations of kickbacks, embezzlement, vote fraud and falsification of records in the 56 locals of the corrupt AFSCME Dist. Council 37 in N.Y. City.

Prosecutors said DeCanio inflated the price about $.20 per lbs., often raising the price to $1.10 per lbs. from the wholesale price of $.90. Thus he might embezzle $4,000 in providing 1,000 20-pound turkeys. But beyond Local 1251, union sources claim DeCanio had provided as many as 10,000 of turkeys each year to at least five other locals charging the locals $40 for turkeys that retail for half that, and he walked off with far more than $.20 per lbs.

Nevada Contractors Fight Back Against BTOP

Associated Builders & Contractors of Southern Nevada (ABC-SN) issued a statement Nov. 6 strongly opposing the Building Trades Organizing Project's (BTOP) tactics that force unionizing. BTOP is an AFL-CIO front for an alliance of 15 unions including two of America's most corrupt unions, the Teamsters and Laborers (LIUNA). Excerpts of ABC's statement follow:

"BTOP...is targeting ABC members in Las Vegas with a campaign to force open-shop contractors to become unionized -- even against the expressed wishes of their workers. BTOP has spent millions of dollars over the last two years on a campaign based on misleading and incomplete information, unlawful job actions and other questionable tactics. BTOP kicked off its nationally publicized, $6 million campaign in southern Nevada with visits from high officials of the AFL-CIO, including President John Sweeney. BTOP's goal is to unionize the entire construction industry in southern Nevada, starting with concrete finishing, then framing, then other trades.

New York City Dissident Leader Fights Back

The reform-minded president of one of Am. Fed. of State, County & Municipal Employees Dist. Council 37's locals was locked out of his Manhattan office Nov. 3 after his executive board voted to suspend him. The move to oust Roy Commer came at the hands of board members loyal to DC 37 boss Stanley Hill. "It's outrageous. I think it's a first swing back by the leadership of DC 37 against the dissidents in an effort to try to muzzle them," said Commer's attorney. DC 37 is being rocked by outside audits and a grand jury investigation into alleged election fraud, embezzlement and financial mismanagement (See UCU 1.11). But a lawyer for the DC 37 executive board insisted Commer was removed Nov. 2 for violating the union's constitution and that it had nothing to do with union's on going audit.

Boss' Removal Upheld, No Discrimination

Teamsters Local 705's firing of an Italian-American business agent didn't constitute "national origin discrimination," but was motivated by the local's desire to eliminate all vestiges of a formerly corrupt organization; so ruled the U.S. 7th Cir. Court of Appeals in Chicago Nov. 9. The evidence of plaintiff Jack Indurante consisted primarily of a few anti-Italian "stray remarks" and was thus insufficient to reverse a lower court judgment against him. In May 1992, Daniel Ligurotis, then Local 705 president, hired Indurante. Then a court-appointed trustee removed Ligurotis and Indurante due to findings of corruption by the U.S. Dist. Court in Manhattan. Indurante sued Local 507 on May 10, 1996, alleging that he was fired because of his age and Italian heritage. The local defended its discharge of Indurante as an effort "to implement the mandate of the government-ordered trusteeship of the Teamsters, to clean house." [BNA 11/10/98]

ABC Abuse Shows Union, Democrats, Out of Touch

Excerpts from the Omaha World News'Nov. 9 editorial: "Democrats Trespass in a Private Matter." -- "Vice President Al Gore showed bad judgment when he stiffed an ABC News reporter on election night because of a labor dispute at the network. Gore, who is courting organized labor for support of his presidential bid in 2000, put politics ahead of doing the right thing. The day before the election, about 2,200 ABC camera workers, publicists, producers, writers and editors staged a one-day walkout in several major cities in a dispute about health coverage policies. The network refused to let strikers come back to work the following day because they would not promise to give advance notice of future work stoppages.

New York City Bosses' Lavish Stipends

As a broad investigation begins into allegations of rampant corruption in Am. Fed. of State, County & Municipal Employees Dist. Council 37 in N.Y.C. (See UCU 1.11), dissidents say the union's troubles stem largely from DC 37's awkward governing structure. The structure discourages executive board members from questioning how the union is run and encourages skimpy financial oversight, little questioning and a lot of looking the other way. Critics say Stanley Hill, DC 37's executive director, handpicked the 24-member board. Board members have a strong financial incentive to go along with Hill. They receive stipends averaging $31,530 a year on top of their union salaries: $30,000-$150,000. They get $18,000 for sitting on the board and $12,000 for heading a committee. Critics say these bosses do little extra work in return for the stipends. Each month, they attend a lavishly catered meeting with London broil or poached salmon. [N.Y. Times 11/9/98]

The 24-member executive board of AFSCME Dist. Council 37 awarded itself the following lavish stipends last year, beyond their regular salaries:

Racketeering Conviction Upheld

The U.S. 3rd Cir. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld the racketeering and bribery conviction Nov. 5 of Louis Parise, Jr., the son of ousted Nat. Maritime Union boss, Louis Parise, Sr.  Parise, Jr., faces a 30-month federal prison sentence after being found guilty of delivering cash to union bosses so that they would refer injured seafarers to a lawyer working with the family. Parise, Sr., is serving a 56-month sentence in a federal prison role in the scheme and for embezzling union funds. Parise, Jr.'s, brother, Robert, is due for sentencing in Feb. after he pled guilty to embezzlement last year. He was accused of running a fake NMU local in Miami that diverted tens of thousands of dollars in union funds. In the bribery scheme, Parise, Sr., paid union port agents to refer injured seafarers to Bernard Sacks, a Philadelphia attorney, who gave 5% of the resulting fees to Parise, Sr. Parise, Jr., worked for  Sacks and traveled to ports delivering cash to the agents and telling them that Sacks was NMU's official attorney.

Connecticut Boss Settles Suit over Dues Hikes

Conn. Dist. Council of LIUNA settled a lawsuit Nov. 4 charging it with illegally collecting and increasing the dues of members. The suit, by Local 665 in Bridgeport, its business manager Ronald B. Nobili and 6 members, alleged that the council unilaterally raised dues without seeking member approval in violation of federal law. It also alleged that the funds were used to pay excessive salaries and personal expenses of council bosses and were distributed to serve bosses' political interests, rather than the interests of the membership. The settlement requires the council to discontinue the practice and requires future increases be put to a secret ballot vote of the members. Council bosses agreed in the settlement not to retaliate against the plaintiffs and pay $100,000 in attorneys' fees. The practices began in 1977 under ex-boss Dominick Lopreato, who is serving a 4-year federal prison sentence for kickbacks, and continued under the current council boss, Charles LeConche, who also heads Local 230 in Hartford. [BNA 11/6/98]

Luskin Goes Soft on Chicago Local, No Trusteeship

Laborers' Int'l Union of No. Am. Local 5, based in Chicago Hts., Ill., has been placed under supervision by LIUNA through an agreement between the local and LIUNA's in-house prosecutor Robert D. Luskin. But recent questions about Luskin's qualifications, motives and possible conflicts-of-interest raise concerns about his objectivity in this case. The so-called supervision agreement, dated Oct. 6, released Nov. 4, accuses Local 5 of financial malpractice, improper recordkeeping, undemocratic practices and withholding minutes and financial reports from members. The move was based on ex-bosses' "ties to organized crime."  Several Local 5 bosses have been accused of mob-related crimes in the last 25 years, including ex-president Alfred Pilotto.

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