Albany Local 190's leader, a friend of Jerry Jennings, has been linked to a man with organized crime ties


April 24, 1998

Laborers Local 190 leader Samuel Fresina has committed ethical violations stemming from union charges that he and other members of the New York State Laborers Political Action Committee paid $221,000 in PAC funds to a former union official with organized crime ties, a union attorney said Thursday.

The finding by a union-appointed hearing officer against Fresina, who is a longtime supporter of Mayor Jerry Jennings, could force his removal from the statewide PAC and as business agent of the Glenmont-based local, said Robert Luskin, the special union attorney who deals with corruption cases.

Local 190 had been scheduled to meet Thursday night for nominations of officers, including business agent. But Arthur Coia, general president of the Washington, D.C.-based union, ordered the nominations and election suspended until Fresina's appeal is resolved. In the meantime, Fresina remains in his post, Luskin said.

The meeting was held to inform the membership of the change in plans. Members leaving the meeting offered mixed reactions, with some saying they supported him and others saying he should be removed from office.

Of his detractors, only one, Carmen Francella, who plans to challenge Fresina in the election for business agent, would give his name. ``I think it stinks,'' Francella said. ``If they find you guilty of certain charges, you can still hold office?''

Neither Fresina nor his attorney, Eugene Devine, returned calls for comment.

It was not immediately clear whether three other members of the PAC board were also found to have committed union violations.

Because Fresina has appealed the decision in U.S. District Court, details of the decision remain secret under union policy, said Peter Vaira, the independent hearing officer in the case. Vaira was appointed to consider racketeering and corruption cases under a 1995 agreement between the Laborers International Union of North America and the U.S. Justice Department.

But the decision against Fresina was confirmed in a letter Tuesday to Local 190 from Arthur Coia, general president of the Washington, D.C.-based union.

Luskin, reading from Coia's letter in a telephone interview Thursday, said Fresina was found to have committed ``certain violations of the ethical practices code,'' which would bar him from holding union office in the future if his appeal fails.

Fresina and the other PAC board members were not charged by Luskin with organized crime activity, but with ``breach of duty and loyalty and obstruction,'' according to Luskin's charges.

Jennings, who earlier said he did not believe any allegations of mob ties against Fresina, stood by his longtime ally. ``I've known Sam since before he was a labor leader,'' Jennings said. ``He was a friend. He will remain a friend of mine.''

In addition to receiving more than $14,000 in campaign contributions from Fresina and Laborers groups over which he holds influence, Jennings recently arranged to have the Laborers train workers as part of a $6 million federal grant to clean up lead in about 500 low-income homes.

The PAC board was accused last fall of paying $221,000 to Salvatore Lanza, a member and former administrator of the PAC. In November 1996, Luskin had ordered the PAC to fire Lanza after the Mason Tenders' District Council in New York City expelled him for racketeering and associating with organized crime figures, including Anthony ``Fat Tony'' Salerno, the former head of the Genovese crime family, Luskin said.

In February, Devine said the PAC board was uncertain whether Luskin had the authority to order Lanza's firing and feared the PAC could be liable for upwards of $1 million in damages in a lawsuit. The board decided in December 1996 to buy out Lanza's three-year contract, paying him what he would have gotten in salary and benefits and letting him officially retire in April 1997 to collect pension benefits.

Copyright 1998, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.

Return to

(c) All original work Copyright 1998. All rights reserved..