DOJ Sues Buffalo Local, LIUNA’s Right to Sue Questioned

In one of the best examples yet of the utter failure of LIUNA’s “internal reform effort,” the U.S. Atty. for the West. Dist. of N.Y., Denise E. O’Donnell, filed civil racketeering suit against LIUNA Local 210 in Buffalo on Dec. 2. It stated: “As a result of the strong and pervasive ties to organized crime, numerous Local 210 union officers and employees have been chosen by, subject to the approval of, and have been controlled by various members and associates of organized crime.”  The upshot: despite LIUNA’s “internal reform effort” supervision of Local 210 since Feb. 22, 1996, organize crime still reportedly dominates the historically corrupt local.

Trying to save face, LIUNA and it’s ethically-challenged “in-house prosecutor” Robert D. Luskin joined DOJ’s suit. But just days later, LIUNA was effectively bounced from the suit after U.S. Dist. Judge Richard J. Arcara questioned whether LIUNA could sue the local, the only named defendant, that LIUNA has run for nearly four years under a trusteeship. An embarrassing legal blunder for Luskin’s team.

Aside: Luskin and LIUNA joined DOJ in a similar suit against the Chicago Laborers’ Dist. Council in Aug. It’s unclear if LIUNA’s lack-of-standing problems in Buffalo will raise similar questions in the Chicago suit.

The Buffalo suit named 16 co-conspirators saying they are La Cosa Nostra members or their associates who have kept Local 210 under mob control. DOJ accused them of eight violations of the Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Orgs. act. They allegedly named mobsters as officers and stewards and hired relatives and cronies for jobs. Many of the suit’s allegations were in an initial DOJ suit prepared in 1994, which was shelved after DOJ and LIUNA struck a controversial deal to allow LIUNA to clean-up itself.

DOJ requested Arcara to name a “court liaison officer” to run Local 210 for 5 years.  DOJ also asked for Local 210 pay for the costs of the suit and oversight. Arcara took the consent decree under advisement but has not yet issued an order.

Two of the co-conspirators are Joseph E. Todaro and his son, Joseph A. Todaro who also own La Nova Pizzeria. La Nova, one of Buffalo’s most successful pizzerias, has made numerous contributions to local charities and military units overseas, and when Bill Clinton & Al Gore and their wives were in Buffalo last year, huge boxes of La Nova pizzas and chicken wings were loaded onto Air Force One. [Buffalo News 12/2, 12/8/99, BNA 12/6/99]