By GLENN BURKINS
Staff Reporter of The WALL Street Journal
December 7, 1999
Arthur A. Coia, president of the scandal
plagued Laborers union, will retire Dec. 31. leaving one of his
top lieutenants to run one of the nation's largest building trades
In a statement, Mr. Coia said he was "
considering opportunities and finalizing options that I plan to
announce in the near future," He said he decided to resign
because of recent ill health and because of the strain the investigations
have put on his family.
A law-enforce ment official said Mr. Coia's
resignation might lead to a deal with the Justice Department in
which the embattled union leader would later plead guilty to a
tax violation. But union officials yesterday denied that Mr. Coia
had agreed to plead guilty, and John Russell a Justice Department
spokesman, wouldn't comment.
Nothing I have ever done has in any way brought
harm upon LIUNA or the hard-working men and women who are members
of this great international union." he said.
Mr. Coia has repeatedly denied allegations
that the Laborer' International Union of North America continues
to foster ties to organized crime. To avoid federal racketeering
charges, the union in 1995 signed an agreement with the Justice
Department agreeing to clean up alleged corruption.
Earlier this year, an in-house heating officer
cleared Mr. Coia of allegedly associating with mob figures, but
fined him $100,000 for buying a $450.000 Ferrari with help from
a union vendor. The Justice Department called that ruling flawed.
Mr. Coia's attorney, Howard Gutman, yesterday
declined to specifically address whether his client would plead
guilty as part of a government deal, "Mr. Coia has been investigated
as much as any person in this country and has been cleared of
any allegation of mob ties," he said.
Mr. Coia's successor, Terence M. O'Sullivan,
44 years old, was elected Sunday by the union's General Executive
Board. He currently runs the union's mid-Atlantic region and was
named an assistant to Mr Coia earlier this year. As a result
of a three-year in-house investigation, the union's in-house prosecutor,
Robert D. Lufkin, alleged that Mr. Coia had bought the sports
car with help from a Rhode Island dealership that leased cars
to the union.
Mr. Luskin alleged that Mr. Coia purchased
the car, but allowed the dealership to retain the title. That
arrangement allowed Mr. Coia to avoid paying at least $40,000
in luxury taxes, Mr. Luskin alleged. The alleged deal also allowed
Mr. Coia to sell the limited-edition Ferrari as a new vehicle
three years later, bringing him a larger profit. Evidence uncovered
in that investigation was later turned over to the U.S. Attorney
Mr. Coia has repeatedly denied wrongdoing
concerning the Ferrari, and Mr. Luskin yesterday said he had no
Mr. Coia, 56 years old, was first appointed
president of the union in 1993 following the death of his predecessor,
Angelo Fosco. Three years later, in the union's first rank-and-file
vote, he was elected to his current term, which is set to expire
in 2001. The union has about 500,000 active members, many of them
manual laborers on construction projects.