Tuesday, November 2, 2010

After 20 years, federal prosecutors convince the judge -- Drastic new move vs. NYC Carpenters corruption

by mnadmin

In June, upon application of Federal prosecutors, Judge Charles Haight appointed a new Review Officer to monitor the New York City Carpenters District Council and invested him with sweeping powers in the hope of ridding the union of corruption and restoring democracy.

Review Officer Dennis Walsh, now with full authority to reform the operations of the union and its benefit funds, has the right to investigate and issue subpoenas, to review all financial transactions, to supervise union elections, to oversee the job referral rules, to develop educational and training programs, to assess the structure of the council and its affiliated locals. Summarizing those far-reaching, open-ended powers and responsibilities, the judge's order authorizes the review officer to "make recommendations concerning any other factors ... that will effectively prevent ... wrongdoing and corruption..."

The new move is a long overdue effort to overcome twenty years of ineffective intervention. It was in 1990, those 20 years ago, that Federal authorities first filed a RICO suit against the council officers, charging that the union was dominated by organized crime, a suit that was settled in 1994 by a consent decree that "permanently enjoined all current and future officers... from engaging in any act of racketeering." At times, the council was subjected to a kind of double monitor-ship when International President Douglas McCarron imposed a trusteeship over the council. But neither the international trusteeships nor a succession of court-appointed monitors had any lasting effect.

Between 2003 and 2005, Walter Mack, then the court-appointed investigator, made a futile effort to actually force implementation of the consent decree. He wanted to know why the union had granted membership to Richard Gotti, brother John Gotti, the Gambino family boss. Mack told the judge that shop stewards who tried to do their union job were intimidated by Gotti and others, that some contractors were allowed to cheat on union benefit funds.

"Mr. Mack complained that he was being pushed out as investigator for being too aggressive," Steve Greenhouse reported in the New York Times, "He had suggested that the district council was not being vigorous enough in cracking down on mob influence..." When Michael Forde, council head complained, Mack's appointment was allowed to expire, and with union approval, Judge Haight replaced him with a new investigator, William Callahan. By 2007, Callahan's tenure proved to have been so ineffective that U.S. attorney Michael Garcia asked that he be removed. Nevertheless, Judge Haight kept him on.

Through all this, the union kept sliding down. Employers were cheating. Good stewards were intimated and replaced. Gotti got his membership card. While Michael Forde, head of the council was assuring authorities that the union was doing its utmost to root out corruption, union officials were taking bribes and stealing union money. In 2009, after years of double monitor-ship -- by the government and by the international -- a federal racketeering indictment charged that union officials and contractors stole millions from the union and its benefit funds and that union officials took bribes to allow contractors to run non-union and cheat on wages and benefits. Finally, Michael Forde, indicted on corruption charges, admitted that during the whole government monitor-ship period he had been taking bribes from contractors to betray union carpenters.

Reviewing this record, Judge Haight considered the Federal attorney's insistent request that Walsh replace Callahan and that Walsh be armed with potent ammunition for a new assault on Carpenters corruption. He said, according to Tom Robbins in the Voice, "It is a little disappointing, a little sad. The original action in this case was filed 20 years ago and here we are still trying to get our arms around continued corruption and dishonest people in the District Council... It has been something of a disgrace." The judge was a late learner.

Federal attorneys saw it in 2007; Walter Mack, in 2005. Jim Jacobs, NYU law professor, knew it back in 2005; evaluating the outcome of 20 different RICO monitor-ships, he characterized the Carpenters simply as "a failure."

Now, the 2010 surge. Review Officer Dennis Walsh, the new commander-in-chief, is off to a good start. Walter Mack, the former investigator, is back. He is authorized to preside over the trial of those charged with violating the terms of the new consent decree.

1 comment:

  1. Will there be justice for the Rank & File? Will the contenders for furture EST step up and demand restitution on our behalf? Will they demand that the membership be made whole? Will they plead the case for the Carpenters who were fleeced? Show us what you are made of if you want our vote! There will come a time when we once again have our rights restored! Do not miss this most important opportunity to show the Rank & File your grit! Who among you will rise to speak on our behalf? Remain silent at your own political peril! It is a time for Real Leaders!


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