Laborers Union President to Retire;
Step May Lead to Deal With Government

Staff Reporter of The WALL Street Journal
December 7, 1999

Arthur A. Coia, president of the scandal plagued Laborers union, will retire Dec. 31. leaving one of his top lieutenants to run one of the nation's largest building trades unions.

In a statement, Mr. Coia said he was " considering opportunities and finalizing options that I plan to announce in the near future," He said he decided to resign because of recent ill health and because of the strain the investigations have put on his family.

A law-enforce ment official said Mr. Coia's resignation might lead to a deal with the Justice Department in which the embattled union leader would later plead guilty to a tax violation. But union officials yesterday denied that Mr. Coia had agreed to plead guilty, and John Russell a Justice Department spokesman, wouldn't comment.

Nothing I have ever done has in any way brought harm upon LIUNA or the hard-working men and women who are members of this great international union." he said.

Mr. Coia has repeatedly denied allegations that the Laborer' International Union of North America continues to foster ties to organized crime. To avoid federal racketeering charges, the union in 1995 signed an agreement with the Justice Department agreeing to clean up alleged corruption.

Earlier this year, an in-house heating officer cleared Mr. Coia of allegedly associating with mob figures, but fined him $100,000 for buying a $450.000 Ferrari with help from a union vendor. The Justice Department called that ruling flawed.

Mr. Coia's attorney, Howard Gutman, yesterday declined to specifically address whether his client would plead guilty as part of a government deal, "Mr. Coia has been investigated as much as any person in this country and has been cleared of any allegation of mob ties," he said.

Mr. Coia's successor, Terence M. O'Sullivan, 44 years old, was elected Sunday by the union's General Executive Board. He currently runs the union's mid-Atlantic region and was named an assistant to Mr Coia earlier this year. As a result of a three-year in-house investigation, the union's in-house prosecutor, Robert D. Lufkin, alleged that Mr. Coia had bought the sports car with help from a Rhode Island dealership that leased cars to the union.

Mr. Luskin alleged that Mr. Coia purchased the car, but allowed the dealership to retain the title. That arrangement allowed Mr. Coia to avoid paying at least $40,000 in luxury taxes, Mr. Luskin alleged. The alleged deal also allowed Mr. Coia to sell the limited-edition Ferrari as a new vehicle three years later, bringing him a larger profit. Evidence uncovered in that investigation was later turned over to the U.S. Attorney in Boston.

Mr. Coia has repeatedly denied wrongdoing concerning the Ferrari, and Mr. Luskin yesterday said he had no comment.

Mr. Coia, 56 years old, was first appointed president of the union in 1993 following the death of his predecessor, Angelo Fosco. Three years later, in the union's first rank-and-file vote, he was elected to his current term, which is set to expire in 2001. The union has about 500,000 active members, many of them manual laborers on construction projects.

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