Wednesday, June 28, 1995


The boss of the powerful carpenters union secretly collected an extra $150,000-a-year salary plus a $25,000 car allowance from a special fund intended to promote the construction industry.

The extra pay and perks, combined with Frederick Devine's hefty $210,000 base pay as president of the District Council of Carpenters of New York, bring his total take to a whopping $385,000.

Devine began cashing in the additional check and allowance last year, but he never told 25,000 union members who are footing the bill.

The salaries make him one of the nation's highest-paid union officials. In contrast, national Teamsters leader Ron Carey is paid $150,000 to run the 1.4 million-member union, and AFL-CIO chief Lane Kirkland gets $190,000.

Carpenters earn an average of $45,000 a year, officials said. But up to 40% of them are jobless.

Devine is one of the state's most influential labor leaders and a key player in revamping the operation of the Javits Convention Center, where state officials are seeking to oust mob-tied workers many of them carpenters union members.

Devine faces a four-way race next month in the union's first democratic vote, a result of a consent decree he signed last year settling racketeering charges that he and others colluded with the mob.

Devine refused to comment on his double salary, but an aide, who would only speak anonymously, defended the sum as "perfectly justified."

"He works tirelessly for that money," said the aide.

Former Manhattan Federal Judge Kenneth Conboy, who is serving as the union's court-appointed investigations officer, declined comment.

Devine's extra paycheck kicked in July 1, 1994 just as the consent decree forced him and other district council officials to stop collecting multiple salaries. In Devine's case, he had to give up a separate $150,000 salary as head of the Dockbuilders, a carpenters union local.

To replace his Dockbuilders pay, Devine tapped into a special fund created by him in 1993 as part of the union's collective bargaining agreement with contractors.

Funded with a 15 cent-per-hour contribution from working carpenters, the Labor-Management Cooperation Trust Fund was supposed to spend money on union education projects and job development.

Stephen Huff, an attorney for the fund, said Devine is a fund trustee and its paid administrator. Huff said Devine did not participate in a vote naming him the paid administrator last year.

Although an estimated $3.6 million has gone into the fund, no reports have been filed with members or government agencies.

Huff said the fund is "in full compliance with applicable laws" but declined to release specific fund figures.

In addition to Devine's salary, the fund has paid for a huge highway billboard campaign, TV ads and expense-paid trips to Florida for union officials aligned with Devine.

"It is a self-serving fund for the promotion of Fred Devine, who intentionally kept it a secret," said John Abbatemarco, first vice president of the district council, who is running against Devine.

Another Devine challenger, Patrick Harvey, head of the largest carpenters local, filed an electoral protest against the fund and Devine's salary.

Sunday, June 25, 1995


Carpenters union chief Fred Devine is all over the place these days.

His name is plastered on highway billboards, on TV ads and even banners flown along the beach.

So who the heck is this guy?

The message Fred Devine is paying big bucks to spread is that he is the proud president of the Carpenters District Council of New York, "professionals working together to rebuild America."

It doesn't hurt that among the motorists and TV viewers are many of the 25,000 carpenters he hopes will vote for him in the union's first-ever democratic election next month.

The election is a key reform won by a 1990 federal civil racketeering lawsuit that charged Devine and other union officials with 20 years of mob-linked corruption.

Devine wasn't charged with any crime, but authorities offered massive evidence of his ties to four organized crime families, pay-offs he allegedly took from a half-dozen contractors and even a scheme to get his teeth fixed in exchange for union referrals.

Devine denied everything, but he signed a consent decree with the government in 1993 that instituted a series of reforms and paved the way for open elections.

Now it's showdown time.

In a race that will be settled over five days of balloting in late July, all of the council's top jobs are at stake.

Devine faces three challengers for the presidency.

John Abbatemarco, the council's current first vice-president, says Devine has turned the plush, multi-million dollar Carpenters headquarters on Hudson St. into "a place of dark secrets haunted by fear and intimidation."

Similar attacks have been launched by John Greaney, a feisty rank-and-file carpenter, and Patrick Harvey, the soft-spoken chief of the carpenters' largest union local and a close ally of former council President Paschal McGuinness.

In response, Devine's allies have waged a campaign that combines lavish promotion with mudslinging.

Black nylon lightweight jackets with Devine's name on them have sprung up at construction sites all over the city and he has paid for repeated promotional m ailings.

At the same time, Devine aides have leaked revelations about one candidate's alleged sexual affairs and drunken driving conviction, another's reportedly improper use of Social Security numbers and a third's supposed gambling problem.

Still, his backers say he is the best bet for union carpenters.

"Fred Devine is the real reformer in this race," insists Devine's chief spokesman, union lawyer Bernard Cohen. "He is rescuing this union, taking it in a new direction."

Cohen himself has become a target in the campaign because of fees of more than $1 million charged by his firm, Santangelo, Santangelo and Cohen.

"We are worth it. I do nothing but work for this union," said Cohen.

Devine has also caught flack for salting the payroll with relatives.

His two sons, daughter and daughter-in-law each earn more than $50,000 annually at the council, and son Michael is paid $110,000 as a special assistant to his father.