The Providence Journal-Inquirer

Lt. Gov. Praises Leaders of Crime-Linked Union

Fauliso made comments at Laborers union after disputed election

By Dan Barry

Journal Inquirer Staff Writer

July 7, 1986

A Laborers union official who federal authorities have linked to organized crime has been praised as "one of the great labor leaders" by Gov. Joseph J. Fauliso at an inductio ceremony that formalized the results of a disputed union election. Fauliso, who was invited by Laborers Local 230 to swear in the victors of a union election last month, made the comment as he proased the union for helping the state's economy and extended the "greetings and wishes" of Gov. William A. O'Neill.

That election, in which an incumbent slate headed by Local 230 business manager Dominick Lopreato trounced challengers, was marked by allegations that Lopreato and his running mate, Vice President John Pezzenti, had engaged in intimidating campaign tactics and had accepted money to ensure job security for some union members. The shakedown charges are being investigated by the U.S. Labor Department, while the National Labor Relations Board is investigating a complaint filed by Lopreato's challenger, Gary Wall, that the election was unfair.

Speaking June 25 at Local 230's Arthur E. Coia Building in Hartford, Fauliso said Coia, who wwas present during the ceremonies, had "distinguished himself as one of the great labor leaders." Coia later said he would seek to make Fauliso an honorary member of the union, in part because the lieutenant governor's father, who died last year at age 94, had been a longtime Laborer from Stonington.

Coia, the Rhode Island-based sectretary-treasurer of the Laborers International Union of North America, was indicted on a federal racketeering charge in Miami in 1981. He was charged with receiving payoffs in return for steering the 400,000-member union's insurance business to selected companies.

because the indictment was filed after the statute of limitations on the allegations had expired, according to a report issued in March by the President's Commission on Organized Crime. But the commission concluded tht the Laborers were "nevertheless a union with clear ties to organized crime."

The commission also charged that Coia spent $200,000 in union money to have a private investigator "keep track" of a federal investigation of the Laborers and had helped his son get the unio to pay $40,000 in legal fees resulting from the investigation.

Mob ties 'irrelevant'

Fauliso insisted in a telephone interview with the Journal Inquirer that he didn't recall making any reference to Coia during the brief, extemporaneous speech he made after the induction ceremony. He denied knowing Coia at all. The lieutenant governor said the only previous contact he had with Coia was in securing a $300 death benefit from the union when his father died. "I don't know anything about the gentleman, and I don't know anything about the allegations," Fauliso said. "I didn't know he was going to be there, or what involvement he had," he said of the indution ceremony.

Fauliso added that he thought the allegations linking Coia to organized were "irrelevant." "The commitment I had was to go down there and swear these people in. Period." he said.

In his remarks at the ceremony, Fauliso also called Lopreato "a very good friend" who "has the esteem and admiration of a great many people."

During the union election compaign, a former steward who ran unsuccessfully for an auditor's position, charged that shortly before Christmas, he handed Lopreato $300 that he had been ordered to collect from sources Recovery Authority's Mid-Connecticut garbage-to-energy project in Hartford.

Another former steward, who also lost his bid for an executive board seat last month, said he collected $350 from laborers at Hartford's Underwood project and handed it to Pezzenti, who, he said, had ordered the collecion. Lopreato, who has headed Local 230 for two decades, has called the allegations lies and has suggested that the pre-Christmas collections were gifts to him for having worked hard on behalf of the local.

But the U.S. Labor Department is investigation those charges. And the union's international board is scheeduled to review the former steward's complaints against Lopreato and Pezzenti later this month.

Death threat reported

Meanwhile, the NLRB is investigating Wall's charge that Lopreato and Pezzenti intimidated laborers into supporting them. Wall has sued the two officials, accusing them of slandering him during the campaign. He charges they told laborers he had orchestrated a clubbing attack on Pezzenti last December.

In his suit Wall also alleges that Lopreato promised at a restaurant to "stab and kill" the challenger's family.

Fauliso said last week he mentioned during his speech tht Lopreato "was a good leader and should be congratulated." The lieutenant governor also used the ceremony to do a little campaigning for this fall's gubernatorial election, saying he and O'Neill were committed to creating jobs. Lopreato was among those chosen by O'Neill to serve on a task force examining the state's roads and highways. Also named to that task force was Anthony G. Rossetti, recently elected statwide president of the Teamsters union.

On June 27, Rossetti and 14 others were indicted on federal charges they helped bilk more than $100,000 from the union's health and welfare funds over the last 21 years. The charges, which the 15 have denied, included embezzlement, racketeering and obstruction of justice.

Last week, while denying it was because of the indictments, the O'Neill campaign canceled a $100-a-person fund-raiser to have been held at Rossetti's home. Rossetti, who is also the secretary-treasurer of Teamster Local 191 in Bridgeport, long has been active in Democratic politics. He is a member of Bridgeport's Board of Education and held a campaign fund-raiser for O'Neill in 1982.

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