February 15, 1998
Investigators grudgingly say Chicago District
Council official Joseph Lombardo Jr. -- whose father is a racketeer
nicknamed "Joey the Clown" -- is a hardworking union
leader apparently untainted by organized crime.
Lombardo Jr. drew intense attention from
the Laborers International Union of North America as it tried
to drive organized crime from its membership. He was the secretary
treasurer of the mob-dominated Chicago District Council, which
last week was placed in trusteeship.
It is no surprise the international union
focused on Lombardo Jr. His father is one of the city's better-known
The elder Lombardo and other mobsters were
convicted in the early 1980s of trying to bribe a U.S. senator
in a case involving the Teamsters Union. While in prison for that
crime, he was convicted again in a case involving skimming from
Las Vegas casinos. He was released from prison in 1992.
While his father was in prison, the younger
Lombardo was advancing through the ranks of the district council.
Now in his mid-40s, he is the only council official with a college
degree. He has no felony record.
Last week, after a lifelong career as a union
official, the international union forced Lombardo Jr. from his
So is Lombardo Jr. the same as his father?
Peter Vaira, the hearing officer who ordered
the district council into trusteeship, doesn't think so.
"There is no evidence . . . to indicate
that Joseph Lombardo Jr. is a member or associate of the Chicago
Outfit," Vaira said in court documents. "There was credible
evidence presented at the trusteeship hearing that Lombardo is
a hard worker who has ascended the ranks by doing a good job .
. . (He) is knowledgeable about union business and dedicated."
Lombardo Jr. could not be reached for comment.
His lawyer did not return calls. But at the union hearings, Lombardo
Jr. sounded cool and reasonable.
"I believe that there is organized crime,"
he said. "My father has been accused of being organized crime."
However, he added, the "only thing my father has ever been
to me is a father."
Lombardo Jr. acknowledged that a decade ago
he was appointed secretary-treasurer of the district council before
serving on its executive board, a technical violation of union
rules. That was the only accusation against him.
"If you can't come up with something
better than that in 10 1/2 years . . . I think I am doing something
right here," he said.]
So why must Lombardo Jr. lose his job along
with district council officials who are accused of associating
with the mob?
An attorney who helped the international
union build its case against organized crime admitted Lombardo
Jr. has broken no laws.
"I believe Joe Lombardo has done a lot
of good at the district council," the lawyer said, speaking
on condition of anonymity. "I view Lombardo as someone who
has worked hard, but who has also chosen sides on a team."
"It was the wrong team," the lawyer