Bureau Of National Affairs

Federal Judge Approves Monitorship Over Chicago Laborers District Council

By Michael Bologna
September 2, 1999

CHICAGO--A federal judge in Illinois Aug. 31 approved a plan proposed two weeks ago by the Department of Justice and the Laborers International Union of North America to release organized crime's grip on the Chicago Laborers' District Council ( U.S. v. Construction & General Laborers' District Council of Chicago and Vicinity, N.D. Ill.,No. 99 C 5229, consent decree approved 8/31/99 ).

Judge Robert Gettleman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois formally approved a consent decree establishing federal supervision over the 14,500-member CLDC. Gettleman also appointed a former federal prosecutor to monitor the union reform process and a former Illinois Supreme Court justice to act as its adjudications officer. In addition, Gettleman appointed a Chicago labor lawyer "trustee/supervisor" of the CLDC during the duration of the consent decree.

The CLDC performs a wide range of services for Chicago's 21 LIUNA locals, including the administration of employee benefit funds with more than $1.5 billion in assets.

Randall Samborn, a Justice Department spokesman, said Judge Gettleman made some "technical changes" to the consent decree. He noted, however, the function and form of the supervision process announced by Scott Lassar, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, had not changed. "The changes did not change the substance of the consent decree," Samborn said.

Legacy of Corruption

On Aug. 12, Lassar and LIUNA officials announced they had reached a unique agreement aimed at dismantling the mob's control over the CLDC for at least three decades (156 DLR AA-1, 8/13/99). While the district council was placed under the control of a trustee in February 1998 through LIUNA's internal reform process, Lassar said the consent decree was needed to address special problems associated with the legacy of corruption within the organization.

The two-year consent decree establishes a process by which wrongdoing and ethical breaches will be investigated, prosecuted, and adjudicated. It also addresses democratic reforms and membership control of the CLDC through elections next year. The consent decree is highly unique in the context of the four-year-old effort to erase organized crime's influence over LIUNA because it marks the first time the government and the union have sought court supervision of a LIUNA body.

Samborn said Gettleman chose Steven Miller to serve as the CLDC's monitor. Miller is an 18-year veteran of the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago and acted as chief of its special prosecutions division until he left four years ago. As monitor, Miller, who is currently a partner in the Chicago firm of Sachnoff & Weaver, will investigate and prosecute charges of corrupt practices and ethical breaches. Miller will be able to seek subpoenas from the court and access FBI intelligence to support investigations and prosecutions. Samborn said Miller is scheduled to make his first quarterly progress report to Gettleman on Nov. 30.

Gettleman chose former Judge Seymour Simon to act as the CLDC's adjudications officer, Samborn said. The 84-year-old Simon is a former Illinois Appellate Court and Supreme Court judge and continues to practice law through the Chicago firm of Rudnick & Wolfe. Simon also served on the Chicago City Council and the Cook County Board of Commissioners. As the CLDC's hearing officer, Simon will hear and issue decisions on cases brought by Miller and election matters.

Samborn said Gettleman appointed Chicago labor attorney Robert Bloch as the CLDC's trustee/supervisor. In this capacity, Bloch will supervise the daily business functions of the district council. Bloch has been acting in this capacity since February 1998, when the international union took over the CLDC.

Dwight Bostwick, one of LIUNA's internal prosecutors through the Office of the General Executive Board Attorney, said the process approved through the consent decree continues the work his office has been doing for the last four years, but focuses new resources on the union's particular problems in Chicago. In addition to the original trusteeship imposed on the CLDC, the GEB has developed several cases involving locals and individuals working under the umbrella of the district council.
"The consent decree is intended to be a mechanism to continue the success we've had under the trusteeship," Bostwick said. "It is anticipated that the internal officers will work with the monitor to speed the process of reform so the district council can get back to self governance as soon as possible."

Copyright c 1999 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.

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