Friday, September 21, 2007
The United States attorney in Manhattan, Michael J. Garcia, filed a 25-page petition last Friday that repeatedly belittled the investigator, William Callahan, saying his ''tenure has been marked by incomplete and slow-moving investigations'' and ''virtually no new evidence of corruption.''
Mr. Garcia, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, accused Mr. Callahan of failing to follow up on strong investigative leads, not telling federal officials the truth about his investigations and betraying the anonymity of union members who confided to him about corruption.
Two years ago, the union, the New York District Council of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, persuaded a federal judge to let it name Mr. Callahan to replace a highly aggressive independent investigator whom the United States attorney wanted to keep.
In his court papers, Mr. Garcia said the former investigator, Walter Mack, did a far better job than Mr. Callahan, saying Mr. Mack had found ''voluminous evidence of both corruption and the union's inability or unwillingness to detect or stop it.''
Mr. Garcia made his request to replace Mr. Callahan in papers filed with Judge Charles S. Haight Jr. of Federal District Court in Manhattan.
Judge Haight helps oversee the carpenters' district council as part of an agreement that the 25,000-member union signed with the federal government in 1994 after prosecutors accused it of being a morass of mob influence, payoffs and off-the-books work.
Mr. Callahan's two-year term officially expired on Aug. 26, but Judge Haight provisionally extended it after the government said it would file papers seeking to have him replaced.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Callahan vowed to fight the government's request. ''Certainly this will be litigated before Judge Haight,'' he said. ''The only comment is we totally disagree with all their conclusions. There have been many accomplishments, but that will be spelled out in our response to this petition.''
Mr. Garcia asserted that Mr. Callahan had failed to pursue evidence that Mr. Mack had developed about off-the-books work, fraud against the union and organized crime involvement in construction at the Cipriani banquet hall at 200 Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street. Among the evidence given to Mr. Callahan, federal prosecutors said, were firsthand reports that two convicted felons, ''known labor racketeers,'' were at the construction site.
The United States attorney said that Mr. Callahan's follow-up report reflected no further investigation and no indication that he had interviewed witnesses or took depositions.
Mr. Mack had found many job sites where companies had paid off union officials so that carpenters could be employed off the books, enabling companies to avoid paying benefits or overtime.
Mr. Garcia also attacked Mr. Callahan for not pursuing an investigation of On Par Contracting even though Mr. Mack had given him voluminous evidence of fraud, including omissions of workers from shop steward reports, unreported overtime and jobs where there were no shop stewards to make sure union rules were followed.
Mr. Garcia said rank-and-file carpenters had lost confidence in Mr. Callahan to such a degree that the number of calls to the anticorruption hot line had plummeted.
Charles Stillman, a lawyer for Mr. Callahan's company, Unitel, said, ''From everything I've heard, they've done a first-rate job, and there is no reason for them not to continue.''
On Monday, Judge Haight issued a contempt citation against Michael Forde, the top carpenters' official in New York. Judge Haight fined Mr. Forde $10,000 in ruling that he had rigged the job-referral system in favor of a friend. Judge Haight found that Mr. Forde had told his friend to list certain specific skills that a contractor was looking for, enabling him to jump the line to get a carpenter's job.
Judge Haight wrote that Mr. Forde's conduct was ''dishonorable and revealed his personal contempt'' for the job-referral system and the union's agreement with the government.
Judge Haight cited a report by Mr. Callahan that stated that ''violations routinely occur'' in the job-referral system.
Mr. Forde and the district council's lawyer, Gary Rothman, did not respond to several voice mail messages.
On Nov. 26, Mr. Forde faces a retrial on bribery charges in state court in Manhattan. In 2005, a state judge overturned his conviction and that of a union business agent, Martin Devereaux, finding that jury misconduct had skewed the trial in favor of the prosecution. The two had been convicted of taking payoffs in connection with the use of nonunion workers at a renovation job at the Park Central Hotel.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
John Edwards receives the endorsement of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America in Nashua, N.H. on September 8, 2007. International President Douglas J. McCarron introduces him.
Posted by John Musumeci at 8:56 AM