Pittsburgh Local Put in “Supervision” Not Trusteeship

The Laborers’ Int’l Union of N. Am.’s “in-house judge” Peter F. Vaira ordered supervision — not trusteeship — for LIUNA Local 1058 in Pittsburgh Mar. 9 after finding that its officers have had associations with members of organized crime that “were more than fleeting or casual.”  Vaira concluded that “in-house prosecutor” Robert D. Luskin, provided sufficient evidence to show that Local 1058’s bosses “knew or should have known” that they were associating with members of the La Cosa Nostra crime family and that the association had direct or indirect effects on the local. “The possibility remains that Local 1058 officers’ associations with the Pittsburgh LCN continues; uncontested elections may reflect a continued relationship with organized crime; and, the perception of organized crime association may remain with the membership,” wrote Vaira.

Despite a lack of recent evidence of recent LCN association, Vaira held that the officers’ past associations and over 30 years of uncontested elections of local officers “give LIUNA a bona fide reason to ferret out evidence of organized crime” under the union’s sham “agreement” with the Dep’t of Justice.

However, Vaira stopped short of granting Luskin’s request for trusteeship over Local 1058, finding that trusteeship would be “too intrusive a procedure for oversight of Local 1058” based on the record. Factors included in this decision were Local 1058’s “current business performance and reputation as well as a lack of evidence suggesting improper activities traditionally found in a LCN dominated union.”

Among those named in the decision were: Joseph LaQuatra, president of Local 1058 from 1968-84 and business manager from 1985 until he retired in May 2000; Tom Percora, business manager of the local from 1968-84; Louis Dennis Martire, president of the local from May 1985 to May 2000; and Gerald Percora Jr., the current local president.

FBI surveillance and confidential informant information substantiated allegations that, beginning in 1974, these individuals regularly met with John LaRocca Sr., alleged leader of the Pittsburgh LCN, at a car wash owned by LaRocca, according to Vaira. Vaira found that these individuals had no union business reason for these meetings and did not get their cars washed or filled with gasoline. The report detailed similar meetings held at a local car dealership and several local restaurants between officials of Local 1058 and LaRocca and other organized crime members.

Vaira also said the concentrated period of Local 1058’s ties to organized crime members was during the 1970s until 1987. After 1987, Vaira said there was “little reported evidence of any association.” There were three “isolated incidents” in the 1990s, he said, which add “little weight to the allegation that the associations of 14 or more years ago continue.”

Vaira recommended that LIUNA President Terry O’Sullivan appoint a LIUNA representative to serve, aided by legal counsel, as supervisor of Local 1058. Among other things, the supervisor should determine whether past organized crime association continues or affects the local and should ascertain why the local’s elections were uncontested for so many years.  The supervisor should be given authority to override decisions by local bosses and remove officers if necessary but only with O’Sullivan’s approval. Authority should be given the supervisor to negotiate retirement of any local union officer and to call for a general election outside the normal election cycle.

Vaira’s “probe” of Local 1058 was undertaken as part of an extension of an controversial consent decree negotiated in 1995 by LIUNA and DOJ that allowed the union to root out corrupt practices through an “internal reform effort.” DOJ has threatened to file an already prepared 212-page civil complaint under the federal racketeering statute and take over the union if the union fails to achieve significant reform on its own.  LIUNA was released from formal DOJ oversight in 2000, but is obligated under the terms of the agreement to continue internal reform programs until 2006.

Unlike previous agreements with DOJ, the 2000 agreement removes the threat of the department imposing the terms of a Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act consent decree that previously allowed DOJ to place LIUNA under federal court receivership if the pace and extent of reform did not meet department expectations.  In exchange, LIUNA agreed to more than double the length of the previously negotiated reform program. Under the new agreement, the DOJ retained the right to veto any major change in the existing reform program. [BNA 3/14/01]  In short, DOJ gave up a lot for a little.