Daniel F. Kearney, a former Long Beach, NJ, city councilman, will begin a one-year federal prison sentence after the holidays, his lawyer confirmed in early December. Kearney pled guilty Nov. 22 in U.S. Dist. Court to embezzling nearly $150,000 from Local 79 of the Laborers Intl. Union of N. America while he was secretary-treasurer from 2000 to 2002. He was sentenced to one year of confinement and two years of probation, fined $100 and barred from holding a union office for 13 years. Kearney also paid restitution of $149,330.12, made possible by the refinancing of his Arizona Avenue home.
Kearney was elected to the Long Beach City Council in November 2001, but resigned in June 2003 when questions began to surface about the union’s finances. At the time, he claimed he was resigning for health reasons, and Gina Guma, then the president of the Long Beach Board of Education, was appointed to fill his seat.
Kearney was appointed secretary-treasurer of the local in 1996, and held the position until he resigned on March 31,2003. Local 79 was rocked by corruption scandals and allegations of organized-crime infiltration throughout the 1970s and ’80s, according to published reports. Kearney was part of a new leadership group brought in to repair the union’s reputation.
The embezzlement mostly involved purchases of personal items and gifts with the local’s American Express card. While the transcript of Kearney‘s interview with investigators suggests that he also forged the local’s president’s signature on several checks, Kearney‘s lawyer insisted that his client had not pled guilty to forgery.
According to the transcript of the investigator’s report, “Kearney was asked why he used the union credit card for personal uses. Kearney stated he does not know in that he did not have cash problems or financial problems. Kearney just got stupid in purchasing items at stores like Kohl’s, Marshall‘s, the Gap and jewelry stores for his own use. Kearney stated it was partly ego, him being a big shot giving out gifts to different individuals. Kearney also liked people outside the union to believe he was an influential person within a major labor organization.”
Among the beneficiaries of Kearney‘s spending spree was the Long Beach Democratic Party. Kearney gave $5,000 of the local’s money to the Chairman’s Fund, which he told investigators was intended to improve his standing in the party. He also entertained and bought gifts for several Long Beach Democrats with the union’s money. According to his interview, he gave plane tickets to Lee Biddison, Steve Polcer and John and Maryellyn Feiler. John Feiler called Kearney‘s story “nonsense.”
At the time, Polcer was the city’s Democratic vice chairman and its director of operations, and Biddison, his girlfriend, was a city employee. Maryellyn Feiler was the office manager of City Hall under Polcer. Polcer is now deputy superintendent of the Nassau County Department of Public Works as well as vice chairman of the Long Beach Democratic Party. He did not return a call seeking comment.
According to investigators, “Kearney wanted to take them to the LIUNA convention in an attempt to obtain union work in Long Beach. Biddison would keep Kearney apprised of upcoming projects.” Kearney said the four did not make the trip because of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Among Kearney‘s non-local misuse of union funds were unsanctioned purchases at Radio City Music Hall, the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, a Macy’s in Hawaii, and the San Diego Zoo. [Long Beach Herald, 12/16/04]