For more than a year, the scandals at Northern New Jersey’s International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825 have piled up, claiming convictions along the way. Add the name Kenneth P. Campbell to the list. On Tuesday, October 7, Campbell, formerly the local’s business manager, pleaded guilty to five counts of embezzlement and three counts of conspiracy to receive unlawful payments. It was part of a broader bribery and expenditure scandal uncovered by federal investigators. “Campbell and his cronies were simply greedy and corrupt,” said U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie. “They treated Local 825 like a personal piggy bank to raid at will to treat themselves to luxuries at the expense of the dues-paying members they ripped off.”
Campbell, 57, a resident of Basking Ridge, N.J., used his position to engage in a conspiracy to squeeze “donations” from local contractors. A superseding indictment had concluded that Campbell and his co-conspirators received a combined $256,000 in bribes from two Jersey City construction projects: the Goldman, Sachs tower and a residential golf course development. At the Goldman, Sachs site, Campbell and associates received bribes from plumbing, steel, window, and backhoe companies. A former Local 825 business agent, Craig Wask, along with a lead engineer on several projects, Anthony Mann, also took part in the scheme. Mann would receive bribes from the contractors, take his cut, and pass the rest to Wask. The latter in turn would keep a portion and pass the rest to Campbell and then-Local President Peter Strannemar. The bribes would allow contractors to hire nonunion labor or buy “labor peace.” At the housing-golf course project, Wask and Campbell took bribes to allow the general contractor, George V. Coyne of Armored Inc., to admit workers to the union without requiring them to pass heavy-equipment tests.
In addition to receiving money illegally, Campbell spent it illegally, too. The indictment indicates he used the union’s American Express card to buy TV sets and accessories worth a combined more than $13,000 during September 2004-October 2005. He also admitted that he made unauthorized draws upon union funds to buy a 2004 Lincoln Town Car for his father, former union business manager Patrick Campbell. The elder Campbell faces trial in November; Kenneth Campbell will be sentenced at that time as well. As for the latter’s partners in payoffs, George Coyne recently pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy; Peter Strannemar at about the same time was sentenced to 27 months in prison; and Craig Wask pleaded guilty in March to seven counts of conspiracy. Given the local’s involvement with Gambino mobster Andrew Merola, this is one union in need of a makeover. (NorthJersey.com, 10/8/08).