The Toronto Star

Acquitted Union Official Is Elected To Top Job

Jack Lakey

June 19, 1996

Less than a week after he was acquitted of bribery charges, a senior official with one of Metro's most powerful union locals has been elected to its top job.

Members of Local 183 of the Laborers International Union have voted by a large margin to make Tony Dionisio business manager, capping a remarkable comeback by a man who was in deep trouble only a few months ago.

"I'm relieved, happy and pleased," Dionisio said in an interview from his North York office yesterday.

Dionisio, who had been president of Local 183, defeated Tony Rodrigues for the business manager's position by a vote of 2,568 to 1,719.

Dionisio and John Colacci, former administrator of Local 183's training centre, were charged last year with offering a secret commission and defrauding the federal government.

The charges were laid after stories in The Star about renovations done at the home of a federal bureaucrat who was involved in approving grants for Local 183's training centre.

The bureaucrat, Eric Ferguson, was charged with accepting a secret commission and defrauding the government. He pleaded guilty last fall and was fired from his job. But the judge handling the case against Dionisio and Colacci ruled last week that the crown prosecutor had failed to prove the charges and acquitted them.

The entire slate of candidates who ran with Dionisio for positions on Local 183's executive board, which included Colacci, also were elected.

The Star articles also sparked three internal investigations at Local 183 - two by chartered accounting firms and one by the inspector-general's office of the union's international headquarters in Washington.

Dionisio remained as president after the charges were laid, but was stripped of most of his power by Joe Mancinelli, the international union's director of eastern Canadian operations.

Mancinelli fired the entire executive board that called the shots at Local 183 and ran the union on a supervisory basis until the elections last weekend.

He also fired Dionisio last February, claiming that he had been a disruptive influence to Local 183 and could no longer do the job.

On some of the coldest days of the winter, Dionisio and supporters picketed at the laneway of the union's Wilson Ave. offices, demanding that Mancinelli call elections for new officers.

After a month of picketing, Mancinelli suddenly reinstated Dionisio to the presidency of Local 183.

When asked why, Mancinelli would only say that it was done to "restore stability."