The Buffalo News



October 7, 1996

His own international union claims in court papers that Victor Sansanese is a mobster unfit to hold any union office.

In 1989, the FBI identified him as one of the bosses of the mob's gambling activities in Western New York.

But members of Laborers Local 210 recently elected Sansanese to a position on the local's advisory board.

And in another election, the members made him a delegate to the Laborers International Union of North America convention. They sent him on an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas for the event.

Sansanese, who runs the Local 210 employee-training program, was one of the top vote-getters in both elections. All of the people elected to the Local 210 advisory board and its slate of convention delegates were Sansanese allies.

George Kannar, meanwhile, resigned Wednesday as a supervisor appointed by the international to rid the local of mob influences. Kannar said he quit to devote more attention to his full-time work as a law professor. But he acknowledged that battles with Sansanese and other members of Local 210 made his job unpleasant.

"The people who seem to be most vocal in Local 210 are those in the old guard," Kannar said. "It's got to have an effect of keeping some potential fresh voices quiet and on the sidelines."

Some federal investigators see these recent developments as disturbing evidence that the international's plan to end what they describe as mob domination of Local 210 is not working.

"It really makes me wonder if they can do it, without the Justice Department stepping in and physically taking over," said a federal agent and longtime investigator of Local 210. "I think it may take a more forceful approach."

Are the laborers in the trenches rejecting efforts to reform the local?

Not really, according to four workers interviewed last week. But all four said they are not happy with the way the takeover was handled.

"I definitely felt there was need for a change. Local 210 was too top-heavy, and there was too much money being spent on administrative costs," said Andrew Farber, a veteran demolition worker.

Farber said he had "great respect" for some of the local's old guard, particularly former business manager Peter Capitano. But Farber said he felt some other union officials did very little for the workers. He said he hasn't seen any real improvement under the new regime.

"I'm very disappointed with the way the international has done things. It seems to be a very disorganized effort," he said. "This latest news of Kannar resigning, after just a few months on the job, is very discouraging. I thought they would bring in a very strong organizer to run things."

A laborer at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute construction project said he and most other employees just want to work, regardless of who is running their local.

"To be honest, it seemed like things were running a lot smoother when the mob guys were running it," said the laborer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another worker said the international is lucky that this has been a good year for construction unions in this region, with Marine Midland Arena, Roswell Park, the airport expansion and other major projects.

"A lot of people are working, and that's the main thing the men care about. If they weren't working, they'd even be angrier about this whole situation," he said.

According to Joseph V. Sedita, the attorney for Sansanese, Local 210 workers are rejecting the cleanup effort for a simple reason -- no cleanup is needed.

He said Sansanese and other Local 210 leaders have been branded unfairly as mobsters by the FBI and other police agencies.

"There's never been any proof that the old leadership stole money or strong-armed anyone," Sedita said.

Sedita said a secret disciplinary hearing, in which the international is trying to bounce Sansanese and two dozen others described as mobsters out of the union, is "the most unfair, most ridiculous proceeding I've ever witnessed."

The hearing, which is closed to the public and has gone on intermittently since July, is being held in a Clarence banquet hall.

"They don't have one credible witness, and I haven't seen one piece of compelling evidence against Victor," Sedita said. "He flat out denies being a member of the mob, or running any gambling operations."

Robert D. Luskin, attorney for the general executive board of the laborers international, disagreed. He said the hearing is turning up startling information about the mob's longtime grip on Local 210.

Only after Sansanese and other reputed mob figures are removed can Local 210 really clean itself up, Luskin said.

A former federal prosecutor who has worked on other cases with troubled unions, Luskin said the difficulties he now is seeing in Local 210 are nothing unusual.

"Change upsets people. We weren't expected to be welcomed with open arms in Buffalo. We expect to make believers out of the people in Local 210," he said.

Luskin said he was disappointed by Kannar's resignation, but that Local 210 is in good hands with Gabe Rosetti, business manager of Local 433 in Syracuse, running the operation. Rosetti, a tough-talking veteran of 30 years in the union, was Kannar's deputy supervisor.


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