Bureau Of National Affairs

Tuesday, April 14, 1998

 

News

 

Laborers

 

 

Closed-Door Hearings Scheduled On Charges Against LIUNA President

 

Closed-door hearings were scheduled to begin April 14 on disciplinary charges filed against Arthur A. Coia, president of the Laborers' International Union of North America, alleging violations of the union's ethical practices code.

 

The charges were filed against Coia last November by attorney Robert D. Luskin, who serves as in-house prosecutor for LIUNA 's general executive board. Luskin was appointed under a 1995 consent decree between the union and the Justice Department that is intended to rid the union of corruption.

 

Although the specific charges filed against Coia have not been released, LIUNA announced in November that the general charge against him was that between 1986 and 1993 he “knowingly permitted organized crime members to influence the affairs of LIUNA, breached his constitutional and fiduciary duties to the union, and improperly accepted benefits from a LIUNA service provider.”

 

According to the union, Luskin decided not to suspend Coia pending the hearing because “the most serious allegations concern historical misconduct.” The union cited language under its ethics and disciplinary code that an officer or elected official of the union may be suspended before a hearing only when “an emergency exists in which the welfare or preservation of the union is at stake.”

 

Responding to press reports in October 1997 that disciplinary charges would be filed against him, Coia expressed confidence that he would be “totally, completely, and finally vindicated.”

 

Coia will be represented in the hearings by Brendan Sullivan and Howard Guttman, from the Washington, D.C., law firm of Williams & Connally. Assisting Luskin will be Dan Braun, from the Washington, D.C., law firm of Comey Boyd & Luskin, and Robert Ullmann, with the Boston law firm of Nutter, McClennen & Fish.

 

Luskin refused to comment on the hearings, other than to say that “based on what I know, it will be closely contested.”

 

The hearings will be conducted before Peter. F. Viara, LIUNA 's independent hearing officer. Under rules established by Viara, neither the charges nor the hearing will be public until a final decision has been reached.

 

Viara is a former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the former executive director of the President's Commission on Organized Crime.

 

The investigation of Coia and his alleged ties to organized crime is part of an innovative oversight agreement negotiated in 1995 by LIUNA and the Justice Department that allows the union to root out corrupt practices through a variety of internal reforms. At any time, the Justice Department has the authority to impose a consent decree and appoint officers to take over the day-to-day operation of the union if it feels the union is not making adequate progress toward reform and purging itself of organized crime influence.

 

Copyright © 1998 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.


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