JAY JOCHNOWITZ Staff writer
April 24, 1998
Laborers Local 190 leader Samuel Fresina
has committed ethical violations stemming from union charges that
he and other members of the New York State Laborers Political
Action Committee paid $221,000 in PAC funds to a former union
official with organized crime ties, a union attorney said Thursday.
The finding by a union-appointed hearing
officer against Fresina, who is a longtime supporter of Mayor
Jerry Jennings, could force his removal from the statewide PAC
and as business agent of the Glenmont-based local, said Robert
Luskin, the special union attorney who deals with corruption cases.
Local 190 had been scheduled to meet Thursday
night for nominations of officers, including business agent. But
Arthur Coia, general president of the Washington, D.C.-based union,
ordered the nominations and election suspended until Fresina's
appeal is resolved. In the meantime, Fresina remains in his post,
The meeting was held to inform the membership
of the change in plans. Members leaving the meeting offered mixed
reactions, with some saying they supported him and others saying
he should be removed from office.
Of his detractors, only one, Carmen Francella,
who plans to challenge Fresina in the election for business agent,
would give his name. ``I think it stinks,'' Francella said. ``If
they find you guilty of certain charges, you can still hold office?''
Neither Fresina nor his attorney, Eugene
Devine, returned calls for comment.
It was not immediately clear whether three
other members of the PAC board were also found to have committed
Because Fresina has appealed the decision
in U.S. District Court, details of the decision remain secret
under union policy, said Peter Vaira, the independent hearing officer in the case. Vaira was appointed
to consider racketeering and corruption cases under a 1995 agreement
between the Laborers International Union of North America and
the U.S. Justice Department.
But the decision against Fresina was confirmed
in a letter Tuesday to Local 190 from Arthur Coia, general president
of the Washington, D.C.-based union.
Luskin, reading from Coia's letter in a telephone
interview Thursday, said Fresina was found to have committed ``certain
violations of the ethical practices code,'' which would bar him
from holding union office in the future if his appeal fails.
Fresina and the other PAC board members were
not charged by Luskin with organized crime activity, but with
``breach of duty and loyalty and obstruction,'' according to Luskin's
Jennings, who earlier said he did not believe
any allegations of mob ties against Fresina, stood by his longtime
ally. ``I've known Sam since before he was a labor leader,'' Jennings
said. ``He was a friend. He will remain a friend of mine.''
In addition to receiving more than $14,000
in campaign contributions from Fresina and Laborers groups over
which he holds influence, Jennings recently arranged to have the
Laborers train workers as part of a $6 million federal grant to
clean up lead in about 500 low-income homes.
The PAC board was accused last fall of paying
$221,000 to Salvatore Lanza, a member and former administrator
of the PAC. In November 1996, Luskin had ordered the PAC to fire
Lanza after the Mason Tenders' District Council in New York City
expelled him for racketeering and associating with organized crime
figures, including Anthony ``Fat Tony'' Salerno, the former head
of the Genovese crime family, Luskin said.
In February, Devine said the PAC board was
uncertain whether Luskin had the authority to order Lanza's firing
and feared the PAC could be liable for upwards of $1 million in
damages in a lawsuit. The board decided in December 1996 to buy
out Lanza's three-year contract, paying him what
he would have gotten in salary and benefits and letting him officially
retire in April 1997 to collect pension benefits.
Copyright 1998, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.