By Dan Barry
Journal Inquirer Staff Writer
July 7, 1986
A Laborers union official who federal authorities
have linked to organized crime has been praised as "one of
the great labor leaders" by Gov. Joseph J. Fauliso at an
inductio ceremony that formalized the results of a disputed union
election. Fauliso, who was invited by Laborers Local 230 to swear
in the victors of a union election last month, made the comment
as he proased the union for helping the state's economy and extended
the "greetings and wishes" of Gov. William A. O'Neill.
That election, in which an incumbent slate
headed by Local 230 business manager Dominick Lopreato trounced
challengers, was marked by allegations that Lopreato and his running
mate, Vice President John Pezzenti, had engaged in intimidating
campaign tactics and had accepted money to ensure job security
for some union members. The shakedown charges are being investigated
by the U.S. Labor Department, while the National Labor Relations
Board is investigating a complaint filed by Lopreato's challenger,
Gary Wall, that the election was unfair.
Speaking June 25 at Local 230's Arthur E.
Coia Building in Hartford, Fauliso said Coia, who wwas present
during the ceremonies, had "distinguished himself as one
of the great labor leaders." Coia later said he would seek
to make Fauliso an honorary member of the union, in part because
the lieutenant governor's father, who died last year at age 94, had
been a longtime Laborer from Stonington.
Coia, the Rhode Island-based sectretary-treasurer
of the Laborers International Union of North America, was indicted
on a federal racketeering charge in Miami in 1981. He was charged
with receiving payoffs in return for steering the 400,000-member
union's insurance business to selected companies.
because the indictment was filed after the
statute of limitations on the allegations had expired, according
to a report issued in March by the President's Commission on Organized
Crime. But the commission concluded tht the Laborers were "nevertheless
a union with clear ties to organized crime."
The commission also charged that Coia spent
$200,000 in union money to have a private investigator "keep
track" of a federal investigation of the Laborers and had
helped his son get the unio to pay $40,000 in legal fees resulting
from the investigation.
Mob ties 'irrelevant'
Fauliso insisted in a telephone interview
with the Journal Inquirer that he didn't recall making any reference
to Coia during the brief, extemporaneous speech he made after
the induction ceremony. He denied knowing Coia at all. The lieutenant
governor said the only previous contact he had with Coia was in
securing a $300 death benefit from the union when his father
died. "I don't know anything about the gentleman, and I don't
know anything about the allegations," Fauliso said. "I
didn't know he was going to be there, or what involvement he had,"
he said of the indution ceremony.
Fauliso added that he thought the allegations
linking Coia to organized were "irrelevant." "The
commitment I had was to go down there and swear these people in.
Period." he said.
In his remarks at the ceremony, Fauliso also
called Lopreato "a very good friend" who "has the
esteem and admiration of a great many people."
During the union election compaign, a former
steward who ran unsuccessfully for an auditor's position, charged
that shortly before Christmas, he handed Lopreato $300 that he
had been ordered to collect from sources Recovery Authority's Mid-Connecticut
garbage-to-energy project in Hartford.
Another former steward, who also lost his
bid for an executive board seat last month, said he collected
$350 from laborers at Hartford's Underwood project and handed
it to Pezzenti, who, he said, had ordered the collecion. Lopreato,
who has headed Local 230 for two decades, has called the allegations
lies and has suggested that the pre-Christmas collections were
gifts to him for having worked hard on behalf of the local.
But the U.S. Labor Department is investigation
those charges. And the union's international board is scheeduled
to review the former steward's complaints against Lopreato and
Pezzenti later this month.
Death threat reported
Meanwhile, the NLRB is investigating Wall's
charge that Lopreato and Pezzenti intimidated laborers into supporting
them. Wall has sued the two officials, accusing them of slandering
him during the campaign. He charges they told laborers he had
orchestrated a clubbing attack on Pezzenti last December.
In his suit Wall also alleges that Lopreato
promised at a restaurant to "stab and kill" the challenger's
Fauliso said last week he mentioned during
his speech tht Lopreato "was a good leader and should be
congratulated." The lieutenant governor also used the ceremony
to do a little campaigning for this fall's gubernatorial election,
saying he and O'Neill were committed to creating jobs. Lopreato
was among those chosen by O'Neill to serve on a task force examining
the state's roads and highways. Also named to that task force
was Anthony G. Rossetti, recently elected statwide president of
the Teamsters union.
On June 27, Rossetti and 14 others were indicted
on federal charges they helped bilk more than $100,000 from the
union's health and welfare funds over the last 21 years. The charges,
which the 15 have denied, included embezzlement, racketeering
and obstruction of justice.
Last week, while denying it was because of the indictments, the O'Neill campaign canceled a $100-a-person fund-raiser to have been held at Rossetti's home. Rossetti, who is also the secretary-treasurer of Teamster Local 191 in Bridgeport, long has been active in Democratic politics. He is a member of Bridgeport's Board of Education and held a campaign fund-raiser for O'Neill in 1982.