JAY JOCHNOWITZ Staff writer
August 7, 1998
Albany Laborers union leader Samuel Fresina
and three other members of the Laborers' state political action
committee have resigned after a union appeals officer upheld findings
against them for ethical violations.
Fresina, 53, a friend and ally of Mayor Jerry
Jennings, quit Friday as PAC chairman, according to Robert Luskin,
the disciplinary attorney for the Laborers International Union
of North America. Fresina and the rest of the PAC board relinquished
control of what is considered the wealthiest Laborers PAC fund
in the nation.
Their ouster caps a case that dredged into
the union's struggle with organized crime. While Fresina was not
directly accused of mob ties in this case, the PAC was found to
have given money to a mob associate. And with the case surfaced
four-year-old federal allegations that Fresina was an associate
of Buffalo's Todaro crime family, and played a role in a mob scheme
to seize control over union locals throughout upstate New York.
Fresina also faces removal from the $83,000-a-year
job he has held since 1983 as business manager of Laborers Local
190. Under the original disciplinary action against him before
the appeal, he would be barred from holding union office for five
Neither Fresina nor his attorney, Eugene
Devine, returned calls for comment. But in the past, Devine has
denied his client did anything wrong or had mob ties.
Carmen Francella, who was opposing Fresina
for business manager this year, said that by the time Fresina
can run again for office, the influence he now holds over who
gets called for work in the union will be gone. ``He'll be forgotten,''
The Laborers PAC, which last year made some
$250,000 in political contributions to candidates around the state,
was accused of paying $221,000 to its former administrator, Salvatore
Lanza, who had lost his union membership in New York City for
associating with Genovese crime family members Anthony ``Fat Tony''
Salerno and Liborio ``Barney'' Bellomo, according to the union.
Mob association is the most severe charge
in the Laborers, which has been operating under a special agreement
with the U.S. Justice Department since 1995. The agreement came
after federal attorneys in 1994 presented union leaders with a
212 page draft complaint detailing the mob's control of the union
nationally. Under the agreement, the union set up an internal
investigatory and review process, independently run by former
federal officials, to root out corruption.
Luskin told the New York PAC board members
in November 1996 to fire Lanza as PAC administrator, according
to union documents. Luskin, the documents say, also told the board
not to pay Lanza any golden parachute, severance or other benefits.
But the board agreed in a Dec. 30 meeting in the kitchen of its
New York City office to settle for $221,000, the union said.
The union's hearing officer, Peter Vaira,
earlier this year supported Luskin's assertions that the board
intentionally defied him and tried to conceal the payment. In
a copy of the decision obtained Thursday, Vaira also did not dismiss
the possibility that the contract -- which suddenly appeared a
year after it was dated -- had been fabricated.
``I find the timing of the appearance of
the contact between Lanza and the PAC to be highly irregular,''
Vaira concluded that the late 1996 settlement
meeting was ``a ruse,'' and that the PAC board had already worked
out a secret agreement with Lanza. ``All of their arguments to
the contrary were made to mask that arrangement,'' Vaira wrote.
Vaira found the board members violated their duty of loyalty and
the Laborers constitution and ethical practices code. The board
also includes Charles Dolcimascolo of the Cement and Concrete
Workers District Council in New York City; Dario Bocarossa of Local 235 in Elmsford; and Joseph
D'Amato of Local 731 in New York City.
The board appealed, but the union appellate
officer, W. Neil Eggleston, rejected their arguments last week,
Luskin said new committee members should
be appointed shortly.
Copyright 1998, Capital
Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y