By Jesse Emspak - Journal Inquirer
A union that represents mostly seasonal laborers
in north-central Connecticut is going through a bitter leadership
dispute, with a challenger for the top job filing an attempted-assault
complaint against the incumbent.
The battle is for leadership of Hartford
based Local 230 of the Laborers International Union, which has
about 900 members, including those working on the renovation of
the Homer Babbidge Library the University of Connecticut's Storrs
Steven Manos, currently vice-president of
the local, is seeking to wrest the top Job- business manager -
from Charles LeConche.
Some union members say the conflict between
Manos and LeConche is a personal one that spilled over into union
Manos, who was elected vice-president in
1995, claims that LeConche attempted to assault him on July 30
at the Capriccio Ristorante in Hartford He has also written a
letter dated Aug. 17 to the union's inspector general, W. Douglas
Gow, calling LeConche a "petty tyrant" and "out
In a Hartford police report. on Manos' complaint,
the name of the person being accused is crossed out. Police said
they did that because no arrest warrant has been. issued. They
added that they,re still investigating the matter
Manos, in several recent interviews, said
LeConche threatened him and had to be held back from assaulting
him by other union officers. He also said he was "bodyslammed"
by the union 's sergeant at arms, Frank Freeman. Manos said he
suffered bruises and sprains.
Neither LeConche nor Freeman would comment
for this story. Three others at the meeting, Secretary-Treasurer
John Pezzenti and Executive Board members James Lawson and Wayne
Silva, also refused to comment on the incident.
The union's travails go back to 1994. when
criminal charges were brought against Dominick LoPreato, who was
business manager of the local as well as secretary treasurer of
the Connecticut Laborers District Council.
At that time. LoPreato was charged with taking
$$345,000 in bribes, after he arranged an $8 million investment
in the now-defunct Colonial Realty Co. The money came from the
union's pension fund. In 1995 LoPreato was found guilty and sentenced
to four years and three months in federal prison.
LeConche, who ran for business manager without
opposition, was elected in June 1995 after LoPreato had to resign
Manos, pointing to forms detailing the local's
spending and reimbursements is complaining about LeConche drawing
According to those forms, LeConche draws
an annual combined salary of $159,392. One salary, of $127.392
comes from the Laborer's District Council. The other $32,000 comes
from Local 230.
LeConche is listed as the secretary-treasurer
of the District council in addition to being the business manager
of the local.
But Manos said he is more unhappy with what
be regards as violations of work rules at the library job, and
LeConche's behavior toward the owner of a contractor for the job,
Capital Concrete. In particular, he points to a June incident
in which the union steward for the job, Manny Lambert, was fired.
Manos said LeConche called Capital Concrete's
owner, Tony Luiz, and pressured him to return Lambert to work.
The job site was picketed for two days. Manos said the picket
was illegal because it had nothing to do with a wage or benefits
issue. As a result, he crossed the line.
"I wanted no part in an illegal activity,
Manos said. "That was an illegal picket line." He added
that picket lines, according to the contract, can only be called
when there is a wage or benefit issue.