Manchester Journal Inquirer

Laborers Union Leader Drops Suit Against Dissident

By Alex Wood
Journal Inquirer

July 3, 1999

The top official of Laborers' Local 230, who had filed a civil lawsuit accusing a dissident union member of illegally tape-recording conversations, defamation, & other wrongful acts, has withdrawn the suit.

Stephen Manos of Glastonbury, the union dissident who was named as a defendant in the suit, says he paid "absolutely zero" to the plaintiff, union Business Manager Charles LeConche, to settle the case. Manos said his only concession was that he agreed not to file a counter-quit against LeConche's lawyer, Patrick Tomasiewicz of West Hartford. Manos & two other dissident laborers, William Cooksey & Gary Wall, are suing the Hartford-based local, charging them with violating the federal Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act. That suit remains pending in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport & isn't affected by the settlement.

Neither LeConche nor Tomasiewicz could be reached for comment Friday. But East Hartford lawyer John T. Fussell, who represents the local, said LaConche withdrew the suit because Manos has retired. "It makes no sense to expend more resources on the matter at this stage of the game," Fussell said. "The issues over."

The lawsuit grew out of a heated union election campaign in 1997 & 1998. Manos challenged LeConche for the top job in the local, which represents about 900 laborers in north-central Connecticut. Manos secretly recorded a July 30, 1997 meeting of the union's executive board at Capriccio Ristorante on Franklin Avenue in Hartford, during which he says he was assaulted by LeConche & another union official. Manos says the tape of the incident is posted on the Internet. In a partial transcript of the tape, he quotes LeConche as telling him in obscenity-laced language, "Steve, you are about that ... close from me ripping your ... throat out personally." Manos says that LeConche threw a napkin at him, hitting him in the chest, & rushed at him but was restrained by two union officials. But he says another union official threw him over a chair & onto the floor, then threw him out the side door of the restaurant. Manos complained to Hartford police about the incident, but they didn't bring charges, saying they closed the investigation for lack of evidence.

LeConche charged in the lawsuit that Manos had requested permission to tape record the meeting of the executive board. & that the board denied the request. He said Manos violated the board's instructions by surreptitiously taping the meeting. LeConche also accused Manos of making a "calculated effort to entice an altercation" which he secretly recorded "out of the context of the ongoing relationship between the plaintiff & defendant."

In addition, LeConche charged Manos with defamation, saying he had made unspecified false statements to the FBI, Hartford police, several other government agencies, & various media outlets, including the Journal Inquirer. The union leader also accused Manos of making "unfounded allegations of criminal conduct" before a congressional subcommittee that heard him testify in May 1998, less than two months before the union election..

Manos lost the June 1998 election. Its results were later overturned by the international union's independent hearing officer, who found that LeConche & his supporters had engaged in improper campaign practices, including use of the union's newsletter in campaigning. But LeConche and his slate were re-elected without opposition this year, Manos has said in an affidavit. Manos said he was unable to run this year because he had retired shortly after his defeat in last year's election.

In a statement Manos, who represented himself in the case , described LeConche's lawsuit as "bogus." He pointedly included copies of subpoenas showing that LeConche & another union official were scheduled to give depositions Friday- along with a court document showing that the suit was withdrawn Wednesday.

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