Boston Herald

Hear no evil: Sources: Gov ignored Teamsters threat complaints


by Jack Sullivan

Wednesday, August 9, 2000

A group of film-related executives used a political fund-raiser to corral Gov. Paul Cellucci nearly four years ago to detail Teamsters shakedowns and intimidation but Cellucci turned a deaf ear to their complaints, according to sources.

"The issues the people at that fund-raiser wanted to discuss were pertinent to the film industry and issues related to the Teamsters were raised," said one source who attended the fund-raiser. "We wanted him to address the problems. Clearly, it has been impossible. This current administration is such that a reasonable person could assume they are not interested in doing anything. It's not been something the governor has been willing to do."

The revelations challenge statements by Cellucci, whose gubernatorial bid was endorsed by the union in 1998, and his aides that he has addressed problems with the Teamsters in the past but was unaware of illegal and threatening activities.

According to people who attended the October 1996 fund raiser at a private Boston home, the gathering was organized to get Cellucci in a setting where they could air their gripes to the then-acting governor and get action. Among those attending were production technical and related film industry officials, according to sources and records.

One industry insider at the function said officials related tales of threats, intimidation, broken car windows and slashed tires when they bucked demands from members of the Local 25 movie crew.

The source said Cellucci dismissed their complaints, offering only to "mediate" the issues with George W. Cashman, a Cellucci confidante who is president of the local. The source said to take Cellucci up on his offer would have been akin to "leading lambs to the slaughter."

"It was such an absurd kind of suggestion," said the source. "(The complaints) were hardly listened to. I suppose people at that thing would have wanted to hear that if you are being approached, intimidated, basically that the people in the production business in this market are entitled to the same protection and same rights that every employer is entitled to.

"We would have like to have heard he would believe that those practices should be expected of any union," said the source.

Donors at the fund-raiser said Cellucci never offered to refer the complaints to the state police or other investigative offices.

Cellucci was unavailable for comment yesterday, and Cashman has not returned numerous calls from the Herald. John Birtwell, a spokesman for Cellucci, once again dismissed the "anonymous" allegations and declined to address whether Cellucci had been informed of illegal activities.

"The appropriate place to report it to is not the governor at a function," Birtwell said yesterday. "The appropriate place to report that is directly to a law enforcement authority, and we hoped this had happened. There is no reason at all why the individuals should not stand up and stand behind whatever comments they made."

But industry officials said many are fearful of coming forward and had hoped the state's chief executive, a zealous movie buff who regularly hobnobs with Hollywood executives, would be responsive.

"Certainly a lot of people in the commercial film industry have complained to the governor," said one executive. "That's an absurd point to say. . Those very people are in fear of their lives."

Cashman and members of Local 25's movie crew are the focus of a federal grand jury and Department of Labor probe into shakedowns of independent and studio movie producers.

One target of the investigation is James P. Flynn, a convicted criminal with alleged Mob ties, who allegedly forced or coerced producers to rent equipment from his company, Location Connection. Flynn is also the union's transportation coordinator, managing the Teamsters on location.

Sources confirmed investigators on Friday subpoened records from the Massachusetts Film Office and have begun interviewing state officials regarding Teamster activities in area filming.

Birtwell said he is unaware of the "alleged" investigation but promised state officials would cooperate if approached.

"If there is in fact an investigation, we should do everything we can to make sure the appropriate authorities get to the bottom of it," he said. "We need to assure and make certain that the filmmakers who have come to Massachusetts feel comfortable in doing so and see Massachusetts as a prime location to film."

The Herald has also reported that the Local 25 movie crew is loaded with convicted bank robbers, ex-cons with alleged Mob ties, and other connected criminals.

In addition, the Herald reported yesterday that Mob-connected members of the Teamsters and Hell's Angels from Rhode Island have been imported to work on Massachusetts films while longtime union members are passed over.

Birtwell said the "handful" of gangsters cited by the Herald have had little impact on how Cellucci views the union's affairs or Cashman, a member of the governor's 1998 transition team and a Massport board appointee who made several junkets with Cellucci to Hollywood.

Birtwell said Cellucci has not talked with Cashman since news of the investigation surfaced last month but insists the governor stands behind the embattled union president.

"There hasn't been any findings of fact, there hasn't been any conclusive investigation," Birtwell said. "Are these anonymous individuals claiming that George Cashman committed crimes? . . These statements have serious implications."

One source said yesterday investigators have been eyeing the criminal element prevalent in the movie crews here and in Rhode Island.

"You see who they meet with, who they associate with," said the source. "You learn a lot by putting people together."

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