Friday, May 6, 2005

Queens Construction Firm Accused of Bribery


The federal monitor of New York City's carpenters' union issued a report yesterday finding that a Queens construction company paid thousands of dollars to union officials so it could hire carpenters for far below the union pay rate.

The monitor, Walter Mack, a former federal prosecutor, found that the company, Boom Construction Enterprises of Long Island City, made payoffs to carpenters' shop stewards at construction projects at Jacobi Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital and other sites. The shop stewards, Mr. Mack wrote, then let Boom hire carpenters at less than the union wage and without union benefits.

Mr. Mack's report tells how a bartender at O'Shea's Emerald Bar in the Bronx helped hand envelopes of cash to the carpenters who had been hired improperly.

Mr. Mack wrote that Boom's owner, Derek McKenna, paid various shop stewards $200 to $800 a week - more than $80,000 in all - so they would hire carpenters below the union rate. Wages and benefits for union carpenters often total $65 an hour; those not paid the union rate can earn less than half that amount.

In a telephone interview, Mr. McKenna said that union officials often pushed for such an arrangement. "There are a lot of companies that have done the same thing," he said.

Mr. Mack wrote that Mr. McKenna and a union shop steward, Delroy Haughton, had accused each other of initiating the payoff scheme.

The United States attorney for the Southern District has indicted Mr. Haughton for taking bribes. Mr. Haughton's lawyer, James M. Roth, said his client insists he is not guilty.

Mr. Mack wrote that Mr. McKenna at first stated that he was not involved in a bribery scheme, but that after more evidence was produced, Mr. McKenna hired a criminal lawyer and revised his statement.

According to the report, each day at the Jacobi site, the shop stewards omitted two to six workers from their report of the number of carpenters working. After a union business agent told Mr. Mack's office of receiving an anonymous tip about payoffs, investigators examined Boom's payroll records and discovered that the company was paying more workers than were listed on the stewards' daily employee reports.

Mr. Mack wrote that many carpenters had denied being paid in cash below the union rate, but that they later admitted they had been, after learning that Mr. McKenna had admitted to the scheme.

Mr. Mack criticized New York City's District Council of Carpenters for not reacting more vigorously after suspicious were first raised.

Gary Rothman, a lawyer for the union, asserted that the union had taken "all appropriate steps to investigate this matter." He noted that a union official had originally brought the matter to Mr. Mack's attention and that the union had alerted state construction authorities about the problems with Boom.

Michael Forde, the president of the District Council of Carpenters, was convicted last year of taking payoffs to allow the use of nonunion labor. But last week a Manhattan judge threw out the conviction because of juror misconduct. Mr. Forde's predecessor, Frederick Devine, was convicted of stealing more than $50,000 from the union.

Last week, Judge Charles Haight of Federal Court for the Southern District of New York agreed to end Mr. Mack's role as union investigator, after the carpenters insisted on it, saying that his two-year tenure was up.

1 comment:

  1. My father is looking for the best construction company because he will be needing it for the renovation of his building until he found Greython Construction.


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