By Melissa Wahl
Tribune Staff Writer
December 7, 1999
Laborers Union President Arthur Coia, who
has been plagued by allegations of corruption and mob ties, said
Monday he will retire from the 800,000-member organization to
avoid further stress on his family.
"For far too many years, my position
in the union has caused me to be investigated non-stop, top to
bottom and inside out," Coia said in a statement. He plans
to retire Jan. 1.
Coia, 56, the union's general president since
1993, will be succeeded by Terry O'Sullivan, 44, who had been
assistant to the general president and manager for the union's
A native Californian, O'Sullivan began his
career in 1974 with the union and was a longtime member of Local
1353 in Charleston, W.Va.
The union, which represents workers in construction,
maintenance, food service and other industries, has about 19,000
members in 21 Chicago-area locals.
The district council that oversees the Chicago
locals has been run by a trustee since early 1998 because of alleged
ties to organized crime. The trusteeship stems from reforms initiated
in late 1994, after Justice Department officials confronted the
union with findings that it had been the handmaiden of Chicago-based
mobsters since 1926.
In August, the union and the government filed
a consent decree acknowledging the progress that has
been made in reforming the Chicago district council.
Of the several dozen people the government
accused of corruption in 1994, Coia is the last to leave. The
union fined Coia $100,000 earlier this year after accusing him
of a conflict of interest in a 1991 deal to buy a high-priced
vehicle from a car dealer who did business with the union. He
was cleared of other charges made by independent attorneys who
were hired about five years ago to reform the union.
The New York Times reported in October that
Coia was planning to resign as part of a deal with federal prosecutors
related to the car accusations. Coia was unavailable for comment.
Robert Luskin, a Washington, D.C., attorney
who is overseeing reform efforts at the union, said Coia's retirement
was not necessary to clean up the union. "Since 1995, he
has worked tirelessly to support and implement this reform program,"
Coia, an attorney from Providence, R.I.,
inherited his father's position as the union's general secretary
in 1989 and was named union president in 1993. During his term
as president, Coia battled Hodgkin's disease and prostate cancer.
"At all times, in all ways, I have acted with the good of the union and its members foremost in my mind and in my heart," he said in a statement.