LIUNA Boss Coia Gets Slap on the Wrist

Laborers Int’l Union of No. Am. boss Arthur A. Coia was cleared Mar. 8 by his union’s “judge” on 15 of 16 corruption counts including associating with organized crime. The “in-house judge,” Peter F. Vaira, upheld only one charge of a conflict of interest resulting from Coia’s 1991 purchase of a Ferrari F40 for $450,000 with Viking Oldsmobile in Providence, R.I. Coia was only fined $100,000.

The Dep’t of Justice’s 1994 draft RICO complaint describes what was at stake: “LIUNA…officers…at all levels…have been chosen, subject to the approval of, and have been controlled by, various members and associates of organized crime. Four consecutive General Presidents of LIUNA, [including] Arthur Armand Coia…have associated with, and been controlled and influenced by, organized crime figures. Consequently, the rights of the members of the union to control the affairs of the union have been systematically abused. [Members] have been intimidated into silence by violence, threats of violence, economic coercion.”

The Nat. Legal and Policy Ctr., a union corruption watchdog, condemned Coia’s punishment. “Anything short of removing Coia from office is unconscionable,” said NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm. “This slap on the wrist further demonstrates that DOJ was wrong to put its faith in the idea that LIUNA could reform itself. DOJ needs to admit its mistake, take over the union and institute real reforms.”

There was finally a hint of hope from DOJ. In a statement, Scott R. Lassar, U.S. Atty in Chicago and James K. Robinson, Asst. Atty Gen., said they were “disappointed” by the ruling and “believe the opinion contains serious factual and legal errors.” DOJ called on the ethically-challenged “in-house prosecutor,” Robert D. Luskin to appeal the ruling to LIUNA’s “appellate judge,” W. Neil Eggleston.

The problem with Eggleston is his conflicts of interest. One of the long running criticisms of LIUNA’s “internal reform program” is the cozy relationship of Coia and Bill Clinton who controls DOJ. Eggleston has several clients involved in this Adminstration’s scandals, including Clinton himself. Eggleston was Clinton’s lead attorney for executive privilege matters. Eggleston is also Labor Secretary Alexis H. Herman’s lead attorney for combating Herman’s independent counsel. Herman’s troubles include alleged illegal campaign contributions to the DNC. Also, White House attorneys Cheryl D. Mills and Dimitri Nionakis are Eggleston clients.