Laborers faction faults mayor
Bethlehem-- Union insurgents say Jennings supported political ally
By BRIAN NEARING, Staff writer
August 31, 2004
After losing a revote for leadership of Laborers Local 190, insurgents faulted Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings for appearing during the election to support longtime political ally Business Manager Anthony Fresina.
Jennings admitted Monday that he had stumped for Fresina, whose union has long been a major campaign contributor, adding that any complaints about it came from "sore losers."
Election results were recounted Monday because a handful of ballots were disputed in Friday's bitterly-contested vote for control of one of the region's largest labor unions in which Fresina narrowly fended off a challenge from the union's former president, Ramsis Berghela.
Fresina remained the winner over Berghela, 380-349, according to figures provided by union election officer Daniel Clifton. The Fresina slate won 8 of 11 positions up for election, the same outcome as a May 21 vote that was thrown out by the union's national leadership due to voting irregularities.
"What's the mayor doing down at our election and showing his power?" Berghela asked. The mayor stayed for about an hour during the vote at the union's Glenmont headquarters, shaking hands with Fresina supporters as members lined up to cast ballots.
"I went down there on my lunch hour and didn't take a city car," Jennings said. "I have shown my support for Fresina before and I will again."
Union attorney Eugene Devine said the revote went smoothly. "As a private citizen, (the mayor) has as much right to support anyone as they have to support him."
Devine said he expects the results of this election to stand. "We had someone from the international come and run it to avoid any claim of bias. The membership has spoken twice ... the proportions are exactly the same."
On Monday, Berghela also claimed that roughly 10 city workers showed up that afternoon at the union election, wearing Fresina campaign T-shirts and telling Berghela supporters they were on city time. Jennings denied that city workers were present at any time.
Berghela said he was asking Clifton to order a second revote because it was unfair to have "an elected politician and his employees campaigning as voters stood to get in line." Clifton declined comment on Berghela's charges.
Jennings has long had close ties with the union and its former business manager, Sam Fresina, who is Anthony Fresina's father. Several calls to Anthony Fresina for comment Monday were not returned.