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Laborers File Disciplinary Charges Against Union Leaders in Chicago

 

By Michael Bologna

Thursday, April 29, 1999

 

CHICAGO--The Laborers International Union of North America has filed disciplinary charges against four Chicago local union leaders, alleging they associated with organized crime and allowed their locals to be controlled by criminal elements, a union attorney told BNA April 28.

 

LIUNA also filed disciplinary charges against five leaders of Local 703 in Urbana, Ill. The union leaders were charged with various financial frauds and election violations.

 

Robert D. Luskin, LIUNA 's General Executive Board attorney, said charges were leveled against the nine union officials after a thorough investigation of their misdeeds relative to the union's ethical practices code and constitution. The disciplinary actions are part of the union's on-going internal reform effort, which is being monitored by the U.S. Department of Justice.

 

The Chicago leaders charged include Bruno Caruso, president and business manager of Local 1001 and former president of the Chicago District Council of LIUNA. Bruno Caruso led the district council, an umbrella organization that oversees the operation of 21 LIUNA locals and their various benefit funds, until it was placed under the control of a trustee on Feb. 7, 1998. Bruno Caruso was also the only union leader to oppose Arthur Coia for the international presidency of LIUNA during the 1996 election.

 

In addition, charges were leveled against Bruno Caruso's brother Frank Caruso, who is the former president of Local 1006. Disciplinary charges also were served against the Caruso brothers' cousin Leo Caruso, who is the current president of Local 1006. Also charged was James DiForti, the former secretary-treasurer of Local 5.

 

A statement placed in the current issue of the union's official magazine "The Laborer" said that LIUNA 's GEB attorney March 3 charged the men with various ethical violations, based on their "knowing association with members and associates of organized crime and for permitting organized crime to exercise control over the affairs of the union."

 

The statement further stated that DiForti and the Carusos played a, "significant role in a breakdown of democratic practices within the Chicago District Council, its affiliated funds and certain of its affiliated locals."

 

Bruno Caruso did not respond to BNA's request for comment on the disciplinary charges.

 

Luskin would not comment on the possibility of trusteeships at locals 1001 and 1006 as a result of the charges against Bruno and Leo Caruso. "We're looking at all the issues that emerged during the district council case," Luskin said. "I wouldn't want to point my finger and say this or that local is now a target."

 

Charges Against Urbana Leaders

 

Luskin also brought charges March 4 against the former officers of Local 703 in Urbana, Ill. including Edward "Gene" Johnson, the local's former business agent, and his son Jamie Johnson, who was serving as business agent when the local was being put into trusteeship in 1998. Others charged were Dennis Gleason, Jim Felkner and L.T. Robertson.

 

A notice posted in "The Laborer" said that the GEB attorney charged those five union officials with establishing a "sham consulting contract" that paid Edward Johnson $154,000. The group also converted union funds to their own personal use. The GEB attorney further accuses the five men of violating union election rules and failing to comply with a hearing officer's order that a local election be rerun.

 

Doug Roller, a St. Louis attorney who represented Local 703 during the trusteeship process, said he is very suspicious of Luskin's charges. He said the individuals being disciplined continue to be popular among union members and suggested the charges were designed to derail the desires of the membership during the upcoming officer elections.

 

"It seems to me this is an effort to ban these people so they can't run against the international's slate of candidates," Roller said.

 

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


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