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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Dec. 28, 1999
On Sep. 30, the Bureau of Nat'l Affairs reported
that Laborers' Int'l Union of No. Am. president Arthur A. Coia
who has been repeatedly accused of organized crime ties by the
Dep't of Justice -- would plead guilty to a felony for an improper
association with a union vendor and that Coia would be forced
by DOJ to resign as part of plea. On Dec. 6, Coia -- a personal
and political friend of Bill Clinton -- resigned effective Jan.
1. There was no report of any plea or that DOJ had any role in
Coia had a conflict in his dealings with
car dealer Carmine Carcieri, who helped him avoid taxes on his
purchase of a $450,000 Ferrari. At the time, the dealership held
LIUNA's car-leasing contract, worth over $1 million a year. In
a controversial and LIUNA-funded "trial," Coia was slapped
with a $100,000 fine, but was dubiously cleared of several more
serious charges, such as alleged ties to organized crime. DOJ
openly criticized the "trial" of Coia and LIUNA's failure
to oust him, and DOJ reportedly opened an investigation of his
Coia's attorney, Howard Gutman, LIUNA and
DOJ either denied or refused to comment on whether DOJ had a role
in the resignation or if DOJ's probe is ongoing. But, the Providence
J.-Bull. reported that DOJ's John Russell said DOJ knew of the
terms of Coia's resignation. Further, one source close to LIUNA's
failed "internal reform effort," when asked if there
was a quid pro quo for Coia's retirement, told BNA that it would
be "hard to imagine why [Coia] would step down without some
reassurance from [DOJ]" such as a plea deal.
In Coia's circumstances, the source said
why, from a legal perspective, would Coia decide to retire "if
he did not have a signed commitment from the government of what
he would get in return" for resigning. Asked about the timing
of Coia's announcement, another BNA source said the announcement
date was affected by the report first published by BNA which "likely
dragged this thing out." Absent the media reports, he speculated,
that the announcement would have been made sooner and perhaps
would have been "more graceful." In Oct., Coia angrily
accused DOJ of leaking incriminating information about his possible
Coia will become "general president
emeritus," drawing the equivalent of his $335,516-a-year
salary for life. Without the new title, he would have gotten less.
LIUNA's last convention in 1996 rewrote LIUNA's constitution
to let its board raise Coia's pay at any time. The board used
that power in 1998 to give him a 34% raise, to $335,516. His pension
is based on that amount. "This is a golden parachute"
for "a guy who is stepping down under a cloud," said
Alex Corns, a dissent leader in Cal. "[Coia's] left this
union in a shambles. He got the Ferrari and the membership is
being asked to pay him $300,000...for the rest of his life?...That's
insane." Corns also criticized DOJ for permitting the lucrative
deal. Russell declined to comment on why DOJ permitted it.
Long-time Coia lieutenant, Terence M. O'Sullivan
was selected Dec. 5 as Coia's replacement by LIUNA's board that
is dominated by Coia allies. O'Sullivan's father was a secretary-treasurer
of LIUNA. He has served as Mid-Atlantic regional manager and Coia's
assistant. He was also a vice president and board member. He lives
in Va. and will serve out this presidential term which expires
in 2001. "It's good news that Coia is getting out of the
union. Unfortunately, O'Sullivan is not the kind of reformer that
the reformers want," said Jim McGough, leader of the dissent
group, Laborers for Justice, based in Chicago.
LIUNA's board also selected Joseph Licastro
and Steven Hammond as vice presidents. Licastro also took O'Sullivan's
Mid-Atlantic post. Hammond is an ex-special assistant to Coia.
He also ran two rocky trusteeships for Coia -- Mason Tenders Dist.
Council in N.Y.City and Local 210 in Buffalo. Hammond replaces
Peter J. Fosco who was ousted on corruption allegations in Oct.
[BNA, N.Y. Times, Newsday, Providence J. Bull. 12/7/99, Engineering
In one of the best examples yet of the utter
failure of LIUNA's "internal reform effort," the U.S.
Atty. for the West. Dist. of N.Y., Denise E. O'Donnell, filed
civil racketeering suit against LIUNA Local 210 in Buffalo on
Dec. 2. It stated: "As a result of the strong and pervasive
ties to organized crime, numerous Local 210 union officers and
employees have been chosen by, subject to the approval of, and
have been controlled by various members and associates of organized
crime." The upshot: despite LIUNA's "internal reform
effort" supervision of Local 210 since Feb. 22, 1996, organize
crime still reportedly dominates the historically corrupt local.
Trying to save face, LIUNA and it's ethically-challenged
"in house prosecutor" Robert D. Luskin joined DOJ's
suit. But just days later, LIUNA was effectively bounced from
the suit after U.S. Dist. Judge Richard J. Arcara questioned whether
LIUNA could sue the local, the only named defendant, that LIUNA
has run for nearly four years under a trusteeship. An embarrassing
legal blunder for Luskin's team.
Aside: Luskin and LIUNA joined DOJ in a similar
suit against the Chicago Laborers' Dist. Council in Aug. It's
unclear if LIUNA's lack-of-standing problems in Buffalo will raise
similar questions in the Chicago suit.
The Buffalo suit named 16 co-conspirators
saying they are La Cosa Nostra members or their associates who
have kept Local 210 under mob control. DOJ accused them of eight
violations of the Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Orgs. act.
They allegedly named mobsters as officers and stewards and hired
relatives and cronies for jobs. Many of the suit's allegations
were in an initial DOJ suit prepared in 1994, which was shelved
after DOJ and LIUNA struck a controversial deal to allow LIUNA
to clean-up itself.
DOJ requested Arcara to name a "court
liaison officer" to run Local 210 for 5 years. DOJ also
asked for Local 210 pay for the costs of the suit and oversight.
Arcara took the consent decree under advisement but has not yet
issued an order.
Two of the co-conspirators are Joseph E.
Todaro and his son, Joseph A. Todaro who also own La Nova Pizzeria.
La Nova, one of Buffalo's most successful pizzerias, has made
numerous contributions to local charities and military units overseas,
and when Bill Clinton & Al Gore and their wives were in Buffalo
last year, huge boxes of La Nova pizzas and chicken wings were
loaded onto Air Force One. [Buffalo News 12/2, 12/8/99, BNA 12/6/99]
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