Chicago Tribune,


Matt O'Connor, Tribune Staff Writer.
September 1, 1999

A former federal prosecutor and a retired Illinois Supreme Court justice were appointed Tuesday to lead the fight to rid the Laborers Union's Chicago District Council of mob influence. A federal judge overseeing the case appointed Steven Miller, a veteran of 18 years in the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago, as monitor, in effect a prosecutor who will oversee the bringing of internal union charges to oust officers with alleged ties to organized crime.

Seymour F. Simon, a former judge on both the Illinois Supreme Court and the Illinois Appellate Court, has been named the adjudications officer--the judge who will decide what discipline if any to impose after presiding over hearings resulting from any charges.

The appointments come less than three weeks after the district council, an umbrella group of 21 Chicago-area laborers locals, agreed to a consent decree in order to settle a civil racketeering lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago by its international union and the federal government.

The consent decree approved by U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman on Tuesday gives expanded powers to the monitor to go after mob influence in the union. In the racketeering suit, the international union and federal authorities alleged the district council has been dominated for three decades by the Chicago mob and laid out in detail nearly two dozen organized crime members, their associates and close relatives who served as officers or supervised some of the union's $1.5 billion in pension and benefit funds.

The monitorship is scheduled to last for at least two years, though Simon said the union hopes the cleanup can be finished sooner. "The aim of the union is to get the mission accomplished quickly and get the government out of the union . . . certainly within two years and if possible sooner," Simon said. Gettleman personally pushed for Simon, according to Thomas Walsh, chief of the civil division for the U.S. attorney's office here.

Simon, 84, who also served on the Chicago City Council and the Cook County Board in the 1950s and 1960s, still practices law for the Chicago law firm of Rudnick & Wolfe.

As a federal prosecutor, Miller rose to head the public corruption unit of the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago and developed a talent for prosecuting long-unsolved homicide cases by uncovering related financial frauds. Among his most publicized cases was his prosecution of horse trader Richard Bailey in the murder-for-hire of Helen Vorhees Brach, the long-missing candy fortune heiress. That probe uncovered the killing of numerous show horses for insurance money around the country.

Miller has been in private practice at the Chicago law firm of Sachnoff & Weaver for the last five years. In addition to the appointments of Miller and Simon, Robert E. Bloch, a Chicago labor lawyer, will continue as trustee of the district council.

Copyright (c) 1999 Chicago Tribune

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