July 27, 1996
A hearing on allegations of organized-crime
involvement by some members of Laborers Local 210 will begin Monday,
and some of the participants are upset that the proceeding will
be held in secret.
Former Local 210 business manager Ronald
M. Fino is expected to be the key witness in the hearing, which
will be held in Samuel's Grande Manor in Clarence.
The hearing will focus on accusations by
the Laborers International Union of North America that 28 longtime
members of the local -- including Joseph Todaro Jr., Leonard Falzone
and Frank "Butchie Bifocals" BiFulco -- are either organized-crime
members or associates.
The international said last month that it
is taking disciplinary action against the 28 as part of a nationwide
effort -- monitored by the federal government -- to push Mafia
influences out of the union.
The international said it wants to remove
all 28 men from the union for allegedly engaging in "barred
conduct," including dealings with organized crime.
Fino, at least two former FBI agents and
several other people are expected to testify in the hearing, which
could last two weeks or longer.
Hearing officer Peter Vaira said Friday that
only direct participants in the hearing would be allowed to be
present. The public, the news media and Local 210 members who
are not directly involved will be barred, he said.
His decision and a full transcript of the
hearing will be available for public viewing later, Vaira said.
"It's my policy to close the hearing,
and it's for the protection of the people who are accused,"
he said. "We don't want the raw testimony going out in the
news media while the hearing is under way."
The ruling angered Peter Capitano, a former
business manager of Local 210 who is one of the accused, and Joseph
V. Sedita, attorney for Victor Sansanese, who also is among the
Sedita said Vaira turned down his formal
application to have the hearing opened to the public.
"They made these charges in public;
they called me a mobster," Capitano said. "Now, they're
giving all their so called proof in private. Even my own family
can't be there to hear what these paid liars have to say."
"We think it's outrageous to conduct
these proceedings in the dark," Sedita said. "We want
the public to have full access to what is going on there.
"The hearing officer may say he's is doing it for my client's protection, but I want to make it clear that we don't want that protection."