NJ Governor Agrees to Repay Union that Flew him to San Juan Convention

NJ Gov. James McGreevey gave in to critics and agreed on July 24 to reimburse the Intl. Longshoremen’s Assn. (ILA) for flying him and his family to Puerto Rico.  During the planned 5-day visit, McGreevey was the keynote speaker at the ILA’s national convention in San Juan.  The ILA has contributed more than $100,000 to Democrats in NJ since McGreevey began his run for governor.

McGreevey’s own spokesman admitted that ILA president John Bowers’ announcement that the ILA might soon be hit with fed. racketeering charges “was a bit of a bombshell for the governor.”  After his Tuesday speech, McGreevey cut short the trip, announcing that he would return to NJ for the funeral of a close friend’s daughter.  Two days later, he promised to find out how much the ILA had paid for his airfare and hotel stay and reimburse the union 

Bowers made the surprise announcement at the ILA’s convention on Monday.  Denying the need for a federal takeover of the ILA to root out the influence of organized crime, Bowers announced that the union would write a code of ethics and set up a toll-free telephone number for members to report intimidation by union bosses.  Given the testimony of Genovese crime family soldier George Barone, ILA members might want to think twice before calling.  In January, Barone testified that he and Bowers conspired to ensure that the Genovese family would “have our man as president.” 

Barone also testified that Albert Cernadas, ILA exec. V.P. and pres. of Newark Local 1235, was a Genovese associate and participated in an extortion scheme designed to rig the union’s prescription plan.  According to McGreevey’s spokesman, it was Cernadas who invited McGreevey to speak at the ILA convention.  The spokesman said that McGreevey was unaware of Barone’s testimony when he accepted the invitation.

Barone’s testimony helped convict Peter Gotti and six other reputed mobsters last March of racketeering, extortion, fraud and money laundering in the ILA, including Locals 1 and 1814.  In January, U.S. Dist. John S. Martin, Jr. (S.D. NJ, G.H.W. Bush) appointed an administrator of Bayonne, NJ, Local 1588 after concluding that union officials had violated a 1992 consent decree that they keep the Genovese family out of the union’s affairs.  Deputy Asst. Attny. General Rick Whelan told the Newark Star-Ledger that the NY Statewide Organized Crime Task Force is working with the U.S. Attny. For the Eastern Dist. of NY, the Waterfront Commission of NY Harbor and the FBI on an “ongoing” investigation of the ILA. [Newark Star-Ledger, July 19, 22, 23: Journal of Commerce, 7/21/03: South Jersey Courier Post, 7/23/03: Trenton Times, 7/25/03]