New Haven Register

Union, District Council Settle Lawsuit Over Funds

By Register Staff

Nov. 5, 1998

Officials at a construction workers' union in Bridgeport claimed victory Wednesday in a legal battle with a statewide governing body, which the local accused of misusing funds.

The Connecticut Laborers District Council agreed Monday to settle a lawsuit brought by Local 665 of the Laborers International Union of North America, officials at the local said Wednesday.

The local accused the council of illegally collecting more that $1 million a year in funds that should have gone to the locals. The suit claimed the council used the money to pay off officers in local shops.

The two sides arrived at the settlement at Federal District Court in Hartford, where the suit was filed. The agreement was struck under the guidance of a federal magistrate, said Ronald Nobili, business manager for Local 665.

Telephone calls to the district council's offices seeking comment Wednesday went unanswered.

The local also said the district council circumvented federal labor laws by repeatedly raising members' dues without the members' authorization.

"If the local officers balked at following the orders of the district council, they would be in the position of having to bite the hand that feeds them," said Nobili. "And, because they were spending money that did not belong to them, they had no incentive to practice fiscal responsibility."

The council represents construction workers union in 10 Connecticut communities, including New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford and New London.

Under the agreement, laborers will have the right to approve or shoot down future dues increases by secret ballot.

Dues taken out of members' paychecks, called "working dues" will have to be distributed to locals in proportion to the number of hours worked by each local's members.

The plaintiffs said the practices began in 1995, when Dominick Lopreato was the district council's business manager. He is now serving a four-year federal prison term for accepting kickbacks from the now-defunct Colonial Realty

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