Chicago Sun-Times

Lombardo's Son Has Played By The Rules, Investigators Say

Robert Manor

February 15, 1998

Investigators grudgingly say Chicago District Council official Joseph Lombardo Jr. -- whose father is a racketeer nicknamed "Joey the Clown" -- is a hardworking union leader apparently untainted by organized crime.

Lombardo Jr. drew intense attention from the Laborers International Union of North America as it tried to drive organized crime from its membership. He was the secretary treasurer of the mob-dominated Chicago District Council, which last week was placed in trusteeship.

It is no surprise the international union focused on Lombardo Jr. His father is one of the city's better-known mobsters.

The elder Lombardo and other mobsters were convicted in the early 1980s of trying to bribe a U.S. senator in a case involving the Teamsters Union. While in prison for that crime, he was convicted again in a case involving skimming from Las Vegas casinos. He was released from prison in 1992.

While his father was in prison, the younger Lombardo was advancing through the ranks of the district council. Now in his mid-40s, he is the only council official with a college degree. He has no felony record.

Last week, after a lifelong career as a union official, the international union forced Lombardo Jr. from his job.

So is Lombardo Jr. the same as his father?

Peter Vaira, the hearing officer who ordered the district council into trusteeship, doesn't think so.

"There is no evidence . . . to indicate that Joseph Lombardo Jr. is a member or associate of the Chicago Outfit," Vaira said in court documents. "There was credible evidence presented at the trusteeship hearing that Lombardo is a hard worker who has ascended the ranks by doing a good job . . . (He) is knowledgeable about union business and dedicated."

Lombardo Jr. could not be reached for comment. His lawyer did not return calls. But at the union hearings, Lombardo Jr. sounded cool and reasonable.

"I believe that there is organized crime," he said. "My father has been accused of being organized crime." However, he added, the "only thing my father has ever been to me is a father."

Lombardo Jr. acknowledged that a decade ago he was appointed secretary-treasurer of the district council before serving on its executive board, a technical violation of union rules. That was the only accusation against him.

"If you can't come up with something better than that in 10 1/2 years . . . I think I am doing something right here," he said.]

So why must Lombardo Jr. lose his job along with district council officials who are accused of associating with the mob?

An attorney who helped the international union build its case against organized crime admitted Lombardo Jr. has broken no laws.

"I believe Joe Lombardo has done a lot of good at the district council," the lawyer said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I view Lombardo as someone who has worked hard, but who has also chosen sides on a team."

"It was the wrong team," the lawyer said.