Sunday, August 1, 2010

New carpenters union watchdog Dennis Walsh appointed as ex-boss Forde pleads guilty to taking bribes

BY Brian Kates

Former head of the Carpenters Union Michael Forde, pleaded guilty Wednesday to taking bribes from contractors to overlook non-union workers.
Former head of the Carpenters Union Michael Forde, pleaded guilty Wednesday to taking bribes from contractors to overlook non-union workers.
Dennis Walsh is the fifth federal monitor appointed to clean up the city's powerful, corrupt and politically connected carpenters union in the past 15 years.
If he succeeds, he'll be the first.

Walsh says the District Council of Carpenters - whose ex-boss just pleaded guilty to racketeering - is still awash in corruption.

The union, which controls virtually every big construction job in the city, "has significant problems," Walsh said. "I am conducting multiple investigations of corrupt activity ... which will likely lead to internal union charges and possible criminal referrals."

The probes are far from the first time the union and its colorful procession of bosses have been under the microscope.

Former district council boss Michael Forde, the fourth carpenters union leader to be charged with corruption since 1980, pleaded guilty Wednesday to taking bribes from contractors to turn a blind eye to the use of low-paid nonunion carpenters. The others were:
  • Theodore Maritis, who vanished and is believed to have been rubbed out in 1982 after he was fingered in a probe of mob involvement in the dry wall industry.
  • Paschal McGuinness, who was acquitted of federal bribery charges in 1991.
  • Forde's predecessor, Fred Devine, who was convicted of stealing union funds in 1998, but was allowed to run for reelection. Forde defeated him on a promise to clean things up.
"Every day we find another layer of the corruption onion," said Frank Spencer, who the International Brotherhood of Carpenters has assigned to run the union. "We will continue to peel it until we get to the core."

The beefy Forde tested positive for cocaine when he was arrested last year. Investigators found a stash of highly addictive OxyContin and a stun gun in his Hudson St. headquarters. Since then, seven district council employees have been fired for drug use.

Despite the constant swirl of allegations, many pols have eagerly sought the union's support.

In the 10 years Forde ran the show, the district council lavished $3 million on candidates.

Hillary Clinton gladly accepted the carpenters' endorsement in her 2000 Senate bid, and Mayor Bloomberg embraced Forde for the cameras when the union gave him its nod last year - just six weeks before Forde was arrested.

Forde's plea deal shaved a potential 20-year prison sentence to 9-to-11-1/4 years, fueling speculation he has turned canary.

Prosecutors insist that's not happening, but, as former federal monitor Walter Mack put it, Forde "has got to know where all the bodies are buried."

Seven of Forde's co-defendants have copped pleas. Some are believed to be cooperating with prosecutors, including his No. 2 man, John Greaney, former head of Carpenters Local 608.

Among the union leaders in probers' sights is Martin Devereaux, who ran Local 608 after Greaney was arrested, sources familiar with the probe said.

In 2004, Devereaux and Forde were convicted in a bribery case involving a man linked to New Jersey's DeCavalcante crime family. The conviction was overturned and they beat the rap in a 2008 retrial.

Devereaux was fired last Thursday, union officials say, for misusing union money and refusing to cooperate with probers. He could not be reached for comment.

In May, the Daily News reported that Peter Thomassen, the man who replaced Forde, ran up huge tabs for lavish dinners, parties and junkets. He soon retired.

In recent weeks, two union bigs have been fired for rigging the list that determines which carpenters are hired on a job. Three others were dumped for misuse of union credit cards and funds.


  1. john, fred devine did not run again for office . he did his two years upstate & the was a foreman

  2. Spencer is a fake, phony, fraud. In the year he has been supervisor he has done little to clean up corruption. He acts only when corruption is found by Walsh or others.

    He has supported Forde and his cronies from day one. He supported and appointed Thomassen his assistant, He supported and appointed Devereaux. Now he is supporting and has appointed another Forde crony acting director of operations, Lawrence D'Errico.

  3. I always believed Union carpenters were leaders:each and every man and woman. But over the years, I've come to find out that we are suckers with a greed that self inflicts wounds. This corruption will never end, because we are just like our leadership given a chance. Honest days work for an honest wage...those days are long gone, if they ever existed. Pure rhetoric!!! We'd rather take from the brother sitting next to you. Sad, extremely sad.

  4. Nice post, Thanks for sharing your amazing article about Aluminium Scaffolding Rental


I would ask that if you would like to leave a comment that you think of Local 157 Blogspot as your online meeting hall and that you wouldn’t say anything on this site that you wouldn’t, say at a union meeting. Constructive criticism is welcome, as we all benefit from such advice. Obnoxious comments are not welcome.