Chicago Tribune



By Stephen Franklin, Tribune

Staff Writer.

October 20, 1999

Peter J. Fosco, the son and grandson of former Laborers Union presidents, has been permanently kicked out of the Laborers by the union's independent hearing officer for wrongdoing that included arranging no-show jobs for himself that garnered both salary and pension credits. In a detailed ruling on the charges against Fosco, Peter Vaira, the hearing officer, wrote that it "is disturbing that such practices still exist."

Vaira, a former head of the government's organized crime task force in Chicago, added it was "even more disturbing" that Fosco holds such a high ranking position within the 450,000- member union. Fosco is a member of the union's executive board.

Besides barring Fosco from the union that his Chicago-based family led for years, Vaira ordered Fosco to pay $80,286 to several union organizations that had kept him on their payrolls for several years for no-show jobs. In addition, Vaira said union officials should determine whether Fosco is entitled to the pension credits he received for the no-show positions. As a regional director based in New Orleans, Fosco allegedly required his staff to make monthly payments ranging from $25 to $50 in person to him--and in cash--for office parties.

But Vaira said there were no records of how Fosco spent the money.

Fosco also regularly told union officials to give him expensive Christmas gifts. Both Fosco and the union officials knew, Vaira wrote, that gifts such as a $2,100, big-screen television were "exorbitant." Fosco's salary from the union as a regional manager and vice president was $165,000 in 1997, Vaira noted.

The main thrust of Fosco's alleged scheme, Vaira wrote, citing investigative reports and testimony from hearings held by his office, was adding at least two more Laborers' pensions to one he already received as a regional manager. Fosco started out as a member of the union's Local 2 in Chicago in 1966 and held a number of union jobs until his late father, Angelo Fosco, named him to the New Orleans-based position in 1987.

At Fosco's request, he was listed as a consultant for the union's District Councils in Kentucky and Louisiana and with Local 692 in Baton Rouge, La., Vaira wrote. He did no work for the jobs, but received more than $53,000 for the positions between 1990 and 1994, Vaira said.

Angelo Fosco died in 1993 and was replaced at the union's helm by Arthur Coia, who in 1994 ordered Fosco to stop taking any salary from the organizations as a consultant.

Fosco found a new way, however, to continue receiving money from one group, according to Vaira. He had the Kentucky District Council name him as a part-time sergeant-at-arms and pay him $5,988 a year for the previously unpaid position. He had received $6,000 a year from the council as a consultant. By lowering his salary to just below $6,000, the level required to file salary reports with the union, Vaira said, Fosco hoped to avoid union detection for the sergeant at-arms job.

Neither Fosco nor his attorney in New Orleans could be reached. Fosco has the right to appeal the decision within 10 days to a union appellate officer. Vaira issued his ruling last Friday.

After several years of investigation, the U.S. Justice Department in 1995 reached an agreement with the union to carry out its own cleanup. But the government reserved the option to step in if the reform effort failed. The reform was supposed to end in 1998, but it has since been extended to January.

Jim McGough, a Chicago-based member of Laborers for Justice, a small dissident group, said the allegations about Fosco "are typical. They are not anything unusual. Hopefully, the union will publicize it, and members will find out what's going on."

Copyright 1998, The Tribune Company

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