Bureau Of National Affairs
Hearing Officer Orders Supervision, Not Trusteeship, for Pittsburgh Local
By Brian Lockett
Wednesday, March 14, 2001
An internal hearing officer for the Laborers' International Union of North America has ordered supervision--not trusteeship--for the union's Local 1058 in Pittsburgh after finding that its officers have had associations with members of organized crime that "were more than fleeting or casual."
The March 9 opinion by Independent Hearing Officer Peter F. Vaira concluded that Robert Luskin, the international union's prosecuting attorney, provided sufficient evidence to show that the union's officers "knew or should have known" that they were associating with members of the La Cosa Nostra crime family and that the association had direct or indirect effects on the local union. "The possibility remains that Local 1058 officers' associations with the Pittsburgh LCN continues; uncontested elections may reflect a continued relationship with organized crime; and, the perception of organized crime association may remain with the membership," Vaira said in his written report.
Despite a lack of recent evidence of recent La Cosa Nostra association, Vaira held that the officers' past associations and over 30 years of uncontested elections of local officers "give LIUNA a bona fide reason to ferret out evidence of organized crime" under the union's agreement with the Justice Department.
Both the international union and Local 1058 declined to comment on the ruling.
Vaira Says Trusteeship 'Too Intrusive.'
Vaira stopped short of granting Luskin's request for trusteeship over Local 1058, finding that trusteeship would be "too intrusive a procedure for oversight of Local 1058" based on the record. Factors included in this decision were Local 1058's "current business performance and reputation as well as a lack of evidence suggesting improper activities traditionally found in a LCN dominated union."
Among those named in the decision were: Joseph LaQuatra, president of Local 1058 from 1968 to 1984 and business manager from 1985 until he retired in May 2000; Tom Percora, business manager of the local from 1968 to 1984; Louis Dennis Martire, president of the local from May 1985 to May 2000; and Gerald Percora Jr., the current local president.
FBI surveillance and confidential informant information substantiated allegations that, beginning in 1974, these individuals regularly met with John LaRocca Sr., alleged leader of the Pittsburgh La Cosa Nostra, at a car wash owned by LaRocca, according to Vaira's findings. Vaira found that these individuals had no union business reason for these meetings and did not get their cars washed or filled with gasoline. The report detailed similar meetings held at a local car dealership and several local restaurants between officials of Local 1058 and LaRocca and other organized crime members.
Vaira also said the concentrated period of Local 1058's association with organized crime members was during the 1970s until 1987. After 1987, Vaira said there was "little reported evidence of any association." There were three "isolated incidents" in the 1990s, he said, which add "little weight to the allegation that the associations of 14 or more years ago continue."
Laborers Local 1058 is a relatively large local union with approximately 3,000 members. A source close to the case said this action on Local 1058's operations were "not hugely significant but needed to be attended to." Far more significant, he said, have been reform actions taken by LIUNA in the case of the Mason Tenders District Council in New York City (248 DLR A-1, 12/30/94, the Laborers District Council in Chicago (101 DLR A-8, 5/26/99), and Local 210 in Buffalo (16 DLR A-4, 1/24/01).
Vaira recommended that LIUNA President Terry O'Sullivan appoint an experienced union representative to serve, aided by legal counsel, as supervisor of Local 1058. Among other things, the supervisor should determine whether past organized crime association continues or affects the local and should ascertain why the local's elections were uncontested for so many years.
The supervisor should be given authority to override decisions by local union officers and remove officers if necessary but only with O'Sullivan's approval. Authority should be given the supervisor to negotiate retirement of any local union officer and to call for a general election outside the normal election cycle.
In general, Local 1058 will continue to operate, Vaira said, "while the international union fulfills its obligation under the consent agreement of eradicating any vestiges of the influence of organized crime."
Vaira's investigation of Local 1058 was undertaken as part of an extension of an unusual consent decree negotiated in 1995 by LIUNA and the Justice Department that allowed the union to root out corrupt practices through internal reforms. DOJ has threatened to file an already prepared 212-page civil complaint under the federal racketeering statute and take over the union if the union fails to achieve significant reform on its own.
The union was released from formal government oversight in 2000, but is obligated under the terms of the agreement to continue internal reform programs until 2006 (14 DLR AA-1, 1/21/00).
Unlike previous agreements with DOJ, the agreement reached in 2000 removes the threat of the department imposing the terms of a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act consent decree that previously allowed Justice to place the union under federal court receivership if the pace and extent of reform did not meet department expectations.
In exchange, the union agreed to more than double the length of the previously negotiated reform program. Under the new agreement, the Justice Department retained the right to veto any major change in the existing reform program .
Copyright © 2001 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.