Ousted New York Boss Returns to Power in New Union

A union boss removed in a financial scandal from the former organization representing state prison guards is back by popular demand. Joseph Puma won overwhelming support to become a steward at Coxsackie (N.Y.) Correctional Facility. Member elected him Jul. 14, according to the N.Y. State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Ass’n. In a statewide election, COPBA took over union representation of almost 25,000 guards, replacing Am. Fed. of State, County & Municipal Employees’ Dist. Council 82, which Puma once ran as executive director.

Puma, ex-DC82 president Thomas Kennedy and associate director Lawrence Germano were expelled by DC82 for alleged misuse of union funds. The FBI and the Dep’t of Labor also investigated allegations that personal purchases were made on union-funded credit cards. In 1995, Kennedy was suspended, Puma resigned, Germano was deposed and the
AFSCME took over DC82.

COPBA president Brian Shanagher said Puma received about 221 votes out of 240 cast. He will receive no pay as steward and is not expected to handle any funds. ”Do I find it ironic? We have a complete and open democratic system,” Shanagher said. ”Anybody who’s a member of the organization is allowed to run for any office. They had nomination meetings, he was nominated. … We have no influence over who can run.”

Under Puma, DC82’s finances deteriorated while leaders ran up travel and entertainment bills. DC82 achieved a $1.9 million deficit in the fiscal year that ended Jun. 30, 1994. From 1992-94, the union’s reserves dropped by $3.6 million. [Times Union 7/29/99]