JAY JOCHNOWITZ Staff writer
Friday, August 14, 1998
In the wake of a union ethics case involving
payments of political action funds to a reputed mob associate,
Samuel Fresina has quit his job as Albany Laborers Local 190 business
manager, his attorney said Thursday.
As part of a settlement of the internal union
case against him, Fresina also agreed to pay back $50,000 to the
Laborers' state Political Action Committee, which he chaired before
resigning two weeks ago, according to lawyer Eugene Devine. The
money, which he can pay back over three years, is roughly one-quarter
of the $221,000 the PAC board he chaired paid to its former administrator,
Fresina, who this year was up for re-election
to the $83,000 business manager's post, further agreed not to
run again until the next available term in 2001, and not to hold
any other office in the Laborers International Union of North
America for a year to 18 months, Devine said.
The embattled union leader, who won the business
manager's post in 1983, became a friend and ally of Mayor Jerry
Jennings along the way and was considered a rising star in the
national union, did not return a request for comment. But, said
Devine, Fresina ultimately decided to settle rather than prolong
his battle with the union any longer.
``It was a tough decision,'' said Devine.
``It was hard and it was tough.''
The internal action against Fresina came
last year when he and the rest of the Laborers' state PAC board
were accused by Robert Luskin, LIUNA's disciplinary attorney,
of paying the money to Salvatore Lanza in December 1996 to buy
out Lanza's contract.
The PAC board had been ordered to fire Lanza
after he was ousted from his own local in New York City for associating
with mob figures in the Genovese crime family, according to union
While Luskin told the PAC board not to give
Lanza any kind of severance pay or golden parachute, the board
later argued that it faced a lawsuit if it didn't reach some kind
of amicable settlement with Lanza. They maintained the $221,000,
representing salary and benefits, was far less than the PAC might
have been forced to pay if it lost a breach of contract case.
But the union's hearing officer, Peter Vaira,
said the board intentionally defied Luskin and tried to conceal
the payment, according to his written decision.
Fresina and the rest of the PAC trustees
had already resigned their PAC board positions two weeks ago after
a union appellate officer, W. Neil Eggleston, rejected their appeal.
There were no mob-related charges in the
case against Fresina or any of the other PAC board members, but
since the union case against Fresina arose, other allegations
have come to light. Surfacing was a four-year-old draft federal
complaint against the Laborers international, which included allegations
that Fresina was an associate of Buffalo's Todaro crime family,
and participated in a mob scheme to seize control over union locals
throughout upstate New York.
Although a grand jury in Rochester continues
to look into the relationship between Laborers and the mob,
Devine notes that the draft federal complaint was never filed
and no suggestions of ties between Fresina and the mob were raised
in the latest internal case. ``He was never ever accused in any
forum whatever of being mob related,'' said Devine.
The other three PAC board members -- Charles
Dolcimascolo, of the Cement and Concrete Workers District Council
in New York City; Dario Bocarossa of Local 235 in Elmsford, Westchester
County; and Joseph D'Amato of Local 731 in New York City have
not settled and are still awaiting a final disciplinary order,
Fresina's resignation means the union will
likely hold an election before October, Devine said. In the meantime,
the local's vice-president, Joseph Zappone, will serve as business
Carmen Francella, who had planned to run
against Fresina, called the resignation ``a giant step forward
for the membership to get back the union,'' but he predicted top
union leaders in Washington will work to reinstate Fresina as
soon as they can. Fresina, he said, was noted within the union
for being a strong fund-raiser for the international, which Francella
contends has meant more money coming out of members' paychecks to support top
leaders and political funds.
Francella also criticized the appointment
of Zappone to run the union until the election, stating that under
union rules the job should have fallen to the local's secretary-treasurer,
Copyright 1998, Capital Newspapers
Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.