Dissident's bid to delay process is rejected, but Laborers Local 190 will keep close watch on Sept. 30 vote


Tuesday, September 1, 1998

Albany BETHLEHEM -- A federal judge and a union hearing officer Monday rejected a dissident union member's bid to hold up nominations for elections in Laborers Local 190.

But the union, whose longtime business manager, Samuel Fresina, was ousted last month, will subject the upcoming election to outside scrutiny.

Carmen Francella, who is running against the union's acting business manager, Joseph Zappone, remained dissatisfied with how quickly the Sept. 30 date was set for the election. He complained that union rules unfairly restrict his access to things that would help him campaign, including lists of members and job sites where he wanted to campaign.

``It was a stacked deck,'' said Francella. ``Everything is for the incumbents.''

Although Francella argues that union officers routinely have access to such lists, Local 190's attorney, Eugene Devine, insisted Francella and other challengers will have no more or less advantage than any incumbents, and took exception to suggestions that anyone was being given an unfair edge. Under union rules, Francella can look at member lists, but cannot copy them, even by hand, and any mailings are handled by election officers.

``The allegations are simply not true and I think border on libel,'' said Devine. ``You have legitimate people trying to do a legitimate job.''

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas McAvoy late Monday denied Francella's request for a temporary restraining order on that night's meeting, at which nominations were made, candidates were reviewed, and members voted on an election date, a process that normally takes weeks. A hearing officer of the Laborers International Union of North America, Peter Vaira, also refused to hold up the meeting, but ruled that Francella could complain if the election isn't done properly.

The election marks the first real battle for control of the 1,000-member union since 1983, when Fresina seized power from the Mirabile family that had run it for some 40 years. Fresina was forced out this year after he and other members of the Laborer's state political action committee were found to broken union ethics rules in 1996 when the PAC board paid $221,000 in PAC funds to an organized crime associate, Salvatore Lanza, the PAC's former administrator.

Devine said the Fresina episode upset the election schedule and both the local's executive board and international president Arthur Coia agreed to the changes to move the process along. Francella contends that Coia is trying to keep Fresina's allies in power until his suspension from holding union office ends in 12 to 18 months.

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

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