Friday, July 2, 2010

Official: Exec's corruption plea won't impact Dutton development project

By Michael Valkys
Poughkeepsie Journal

Developers who want to revitalize the vacant A.C. Dutton Lumber Corp. site said their plans will not be affected by the conviction of a former company principal on federal corruption charges unrelated to the City of Poughkeepsie project.

Finbar O'Neill, described as a founder of New Jersey-based The O'Neill Group and husband of the company's chief executive officer, pleaded guilty May 20 in federal court in Manhattan to conspiracy to make unlawful payments to union representatives and making unlawful payments to union representatives and officers.

The plea was part of a federal probe into corruption involving New York City's carpenters' union. None of the charges against Finbar O'Neill were related to the Dutton project.

Louis Kaufman, project manager for Dutton developer O'Neill Group-Dutton LLC, said Finbar O'Neill's legal problems will not affect redevelopment plans for the 14-acre site in Poughkeepsie off Hoffman Street, near the Hudson River.

"He plays no role in this project," Kaufman said.

O'Neill Group-Dutton is an offshoot of The O'Neill Group.

Finbar O'Neill is married to Paula O'Neill, who is listed on The O'Neill Group's website as the company's chief executive officer. Kaufman said she is also a principal with O'Neill Group-Dutton.

Kaufman said Finbar O'Neill was a consultant on the Dutton project in its early stages, but has not been involved since.

Mayor John Tkazyik said he and city officials met with O'Neill in early 2008, but have had no recent contact with him.

"We work with Lou Kaufman," Tkazyik said.

According to court transcripts, O'Neill admitted making illegal cash payments to Michael Forde, former head of New York City's District Council of Carpenters union.

O'Neill and Forde were charged in August.

Last year, prosecutors alleged that in exchange for about $1 million in bribes, union leaders allowed contractors to pay workers in cash at below-union rate wages and employ nonunion and undocumented laborers.

Court documents indicate O'Neill faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in November.

He initially faced 50 years in prison after being charged with racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy, wire fraud, deprivation of honest services and unlawful acceptance of payment by a labor representative.

O'Neill also pleaded guilty to separate corruption-related charges in 2004.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said Forde's trial will begin Sept. 7.

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