By Brian Lockett
Dec. 7, 1999
Arthur A. Coia, president of the Laborers'
International Union of North America, will retire at the end of
this year and be replaced by Terence M. O'Sullivan, the union
announced Dec. 6.
Coia's retirement becomes official Jan. 1,
2000, when he will become LIUNA's general president emeritus,
having served 10 years as president of the union.
O'Sullivan, 44, said it was "an honor
and privilege to be elected to serve" as president of the
union. He has served as a LIUNA vice president since last February.
"I look forward to serving the more than 500,000 members
of this great international and to continuing this union on its
path as the most innovative and dynamic in the labor movement,"
O'Sullivan said in a statement.
In a statement issued Dec. 6, Coia said perhaps
his "greatest contribution" to the union was the initiative
to institute extensive internal reform. "With the support
of our leadership and the trust of our membership, we adopted
ethical codes of conduct and enforcement procedures unparalleled
in the course of labor history," he said.
Coia's retirement announcement had been expected
since earlier this fall when sources told BNA that he had agreed
to leave his post as part of an agreement related to the Justice-LIUNA
program to rid the union of organized crime influence (189 DLR
After an extensive internal investigation,
Coia was cleared earlier this year by an internal hearing officer
and appellate officer of multiple charges of association with
organized crime figures. The sole charge upheld against Coia was
over conflict of interest resulting from the purchase of an expensive
sports car from an auto dealer in Providence, R.I., which also
was a union vendor. Coia was fined $100,000, payable over two
years, for "direct conflict of interest" (153 DLR A-11,
Coia was not available Dec. 6 for comment
beyond the statement issued by his office, which indicated he
was taking this step in order to spend more time with his family.
In his statement, Coia also said that LIUNA's
internal reform program was undertaken "for one reason, and
for one reason only--because it was the right thing to do."
He was referring to reforms sought under
an unprecedented consent decree negotiated in 1995 by LIUNA and
the Justice Department that allowed the union to root out corrupt
practices on its own through a range of internal reforms. The
Justice Department threatened to file an already prepared 212-page
civil complaint under the federal racketeering statute and take
over the union if it decides LIUNA had failed to achieve significant
reform. Coia was accused in the draft complaint of having been
"associated with and controlled and influenced by organized
The reform system that Coia said he "helped
create and have continually promoted," excluded no member
or officer from scrutiny. "I myself became the target of
an internal investigation when the general executive board attorney
brought charges against me," Coia said.
Charges were filed against Coia by the GEB
attorney in November 1997 that Coia, between 1986 and 1993, "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."
The outcome of the investigation--in which
Coia was ultimately cleared of all charges except the charge dealing
with the sports car--was seen by Coia as vindication of his innocence.
Coia asserted throughout the process that he would be cleared
of any ties to organized crime.
However, Coia said the ongoing of allegations
and investigations have taken their toll. "For far too many
years, my entire life has been scrutinized--every action reviewed,
every motive analyzed, every decision questioned, every good deed
doubted. For far too long, I have asked my family to endure what
I had to endure," he said in his Dec. 6 statement.
"But today, the scale has finally tipped
in favor of those I have put second for far too many years --
my wife and partner, Joanne, my children, and my grandchildren,"
"With the election of Terry O'Sullivan
... the future success of LIUNA is assured," he said.
BNA reported in October that Coia was poised
to resign under the terms of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.
Government sources familiar with the agreement said Coia's resignation
would be followed a few weeks later by a guilty plea on a single
felony count pertaining to his purchase of an expensive sports
car from a dealer who was also a vendor to Coia's union, the source
Asked whether there was a quid pro quo for
Coia's retirement, one source close to LIUNA's reform program
said it would be "hard to imagine why [Coia] would step down
without some reassurance from the government'' in the form of
something like a signed plea agreement. Under the circumstances
in which Coia finds himself, this source asked why, from a legal
perspective, would Coia decide to retire "if he did not have
a signed commitment from the government of what he would get in
return" for resigning or--more gracefully--retiring, he said.
Asked about the timing of Coia's retirement
announcement, one source said it was "about on schedule."
The announcement date was affected by the report published by
BNA and others this fall, which "likely dragged this thing
out," he said. Absent the earlier media reports, he speculated,
that the announcement would have been made sooner and perhaps
would have been "more graceful."
Howard Gutman, an attorney representing Coia,
in a Dec. 6 telephone interview, declined to respond to questions
on whether Coia has signed or is going to sign an agreement with
any federal agency in connection with his retirement.
Rather, Gutman said that his client "has
been investigated as much as any person in this country and been
fully exonerated of mob allegations. Now his future is even brighter
than his past."
Gutman repeated this response but declined
further comment when asked whether there were any unresolved tax
questions associated with the car lease, whether an announcement
could be expected next month that a deal had been struck with
Justice on failure to pay taxes on the car deal, or whether any
kind of announcement regarding Coia could be expected from Justice
in the near future.
Also announced Dec. 6 by LIUNA was that the
GEB named Steven Hammond and Joseph Licastro as vice presidents.
Licastro was appointed as mid-Atlantic regional manager, replacing
Hammond's career with LIUNA began in 1970
as a member of Local 295 in Salt Lake City where he served as
business manager. Hammond came to the national office in 1989
to serve as assistant director of the union's construction and
jurisdiction department and was named director of the department
in 1994. In 1997, Hammond was assigned as a special assistant
to the president. Since then he served as the trustee in the consent-decree
takeover and reform of Mason Tenders District Council in New York
City and Laborers 210 in Buffalo, N.Y., where he currently is
Hammond replaces Peter J. Fosco who was ordered
to repay various union entities amounts totaling $80,286 for his
work as a "consultant" and has been stripped of union
membership in an Oct. 14 ruling by LIUNA's independent hearing
officer (200 DLR A-7, 10/18/99).
For the time being, Hammond will remain in
Buffalo, where he has been acting as the trustee for Laborers
Local 210. A complaint and consent decree were filed in federal
court against the local by LIUNA and the Justice Department as
part of a plan to accelerate ridding the local of organized crime
Hearing officer Peter F. Vaira found Fosco
guilty of 11 of 13 counts of conduct proscribed by federal law
and LIUNA's ethical practices code. The charges arose over consulting
fees Fosco allegedly charged to several of the union's district
councils and local unions for work he did not perform or for which
he already was being paid.
Licastro originally was a member of Local
910 in Johnstown, Pa., beginning in 1963 and became business manager
in 1964. He currently serves as assistant regional manager for
LIUNA's eastern region.
O'Sullivan praised Coia as "one of the
most dynamic, visionary and dedicated leaders the labor movement
has ever seen. His retirement is a major loss for organized labor."
Under Coia's leadership, O'Sullivan said, LIUNA "has risen
to the forefront of the labor movement in organizing, political
action, health and safety, training and education, and labor management
O'Sullivan joined LIUNA in 1974 as a member
of Local 1353 in Charleston, W.Va. He was administrator of the
West Virginia Laborers' Training Fund and served as assistant
director of LIUNA's construction, maintenance and service trades
department. He was appointed as mid-Atlantic regional manager
for the union and an assistant to Coia earlier this year.
Copyright © 1999 by The Bureau
of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.