Albany Business manager departs laborers local after ethics inquiry into reputed mob ties


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, Salvatore Lanza.

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 documents.

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, said Devine.

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 manager.

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, Charles Mirabile.

Copyright 1998, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.

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