Thursday, May 27, 2010

Retraction

On May 27, I wrote a article titled, "Trial Committee Says - Let Them Walk," reporting that Local 2287 executive delegate-business representative, Michael Zemski and president-business representative, Jeffrey Passante, sat in front of the District Council trial committee and had not been charged with any misconduct or wrong doing.

In the article it was stated that insiders said the “committee decided not charge the two alleged embezzlers and let them walk free.”

It has now come to my attention and I have come to learn that this story is totally inaccurate.

There was no hearing scheduled at the District Council.

No charges have even been filed at the District Council.

Jeff Passante, has resigned as president.

The investigation into misuse of local funds by officers of Local 2287 is ongoing.

I was asked to retract the story and while an apology was not requested, I wanted to take a moment to state that I apologize to Michael Zemski and Jeff Passante for the story and I wanted to provide my deepest apologies for the inaccurate reporting.



I also want to apologies to the brothers and sisters who read this blog. I know you count on me to provide you with accurate and up-to-date information.



I started this blog almost three years ago, to keep our union family informed and to build a place where we can communicate and connect with each other. 



I have tried my hardest to verify my facts and provide you with accurate information, unfortunately I got it wrong and was misinformed. 



The story has been fully removed.

Exclusive - Hearing Transcript

On Thursday, May 20, in Judge Haight's courtroom, assistant U.S. attorney Ben Torrance ask the judge to sign off on the latest watchdog for the District Council, a former state organized crime prosecutor named Dennis Walsh. Below is the transcript of that hearing. 
2010-05-20 transcript

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Carpenters: The Mob's Union

Two decades later, the feds are still trying to clean up carpenters' dirt

By Tom Robbins

Union carpenters built the soaring federal courthouse on Pearl Street near Chinatown, and last week, a few of them were back to see justice done at their old job site. "We did nice work," said Billy Walsh, running his hand along a smooth maple rail separating the gallery from the business end of a courtroom on the ninth floor.

If only his union had done as well. Walsh, a carpenter for 24 years, was awaiting a hearing in the case of U.S. v. District Council of New York City of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. While he and his fellow nail-bangers were building the new courthouse floor by floor in the early '90s, federal attorneys were building a case against their union, defendant by defendant. Their civil racketeering complaint alleged that the council was under the mob's thumb, its leaders routinely shortchanging their members in exchange for bribes from employers, many of whom took their marching orders from the Mafia.

The complaint cited a laundry list of past corruption and violence, including a former council president who disappeared in 1982 while on trial, his wallet found floating near the Throgs Neck Bridge. The lawsuit asked that an outside monitor be named to ride herd on the union. The goal, the government said, was to return democracy to the members, purge corrupt officials, and shine a spotlight bright enough to keep the mob at bay.

That was in the fall of 1990. On Thursday afternoon, Walsh and a half-dozen other carpenters watched as District Judge Charles Haight considered the government's latest request for yet another monitor—the fifth so far—to try again to fix the council.

This is the mob version of Dickens's Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, and Haight has had it on his docket from the start. "I have to say it is a little disappointing, a little sad," the judge said. "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." The judge talked about how hard so many, including himself, had worked with little to show for it. "It has been something of a disgrace," he said.

There is plenty of that to go around. As he spoke, a contractor named Finbar O'Neill was at that very moment standing before a different judge upstairs in Courtroom 20B, admitting that he had spent years bribing Michael Forde, (pictured right) who ran the District Council for 10 years until his own indictment last summer. The bribes, O'Neill said, were in exchange for a free hand to cheat Forde's members out of the wages and benefits due them under their contract. "This had the result," O'Neill explained, "of substantial cost savings."

O'Neill was once one of the city's most successful drywall contractors. He built offices, schools, and fashionable restaurants, while shelling out five-figure donations to favored politicians. Along the way, he became friendly with Forde, the jowly former head of the city's largest carpenters local. Under rules passed after the government's lawsuit, Forde was elected by popular vote in 2000 to head the District Council. He was re-elected twice more, if that can count toward a reform achievement.

O'Neill said he began paying Forde in 1994, doling out $5,000 to $7,500 three or four times a year. The chain went all the way to the top. In the late 1990s, O'Neill was picked up on police wiretaps regularly consulting with a soldier in the Lucchese crime family. They spoke in Sopranos-style code: "How did we do on that other thing?" O'Neill is heard asking in a 1998 exchange. "When I see you, I'll talk to you," his mob liaison responds.

The builder told the judge that he quit the business in 1999 but became "a mentor of sorts" to a contractor named James Murray, who owned a large company called On Par. The tutoring included a how-to on bribery. O'Neill said that between 1997 and 2004, he delivered more than $100,000 in cash to Forde on Murray's behalf.

The money was for the same insurance policy he'd purchased for himself: "To avoid scrutiny and sanctions by the carpenters union," said O'Neill, and to "save substantial sums of money by hiring nonunion labor and paying sub-union wages."

After his election, Forde brought Murray around to meet his business agents at the District Council. "Guys, this is James Murray," Forde announced, according to one who heard the speech. "He's an up-and-coming contractor, and I want you to help him any way you can."

Murray's education also included his own introduction to the mob. He grew close to Joseph "Rudy" Olivieri, director of the city's largest contractors' association, the Wall-Ceiling & Carpentry Industries of New York. Murray loaned Olivieri $730,000, according to prosecutors, and gave him lucrative work on his projects. Olivieri took his own orders from mob higher-ups. In 2000, an FBI agent sitting in a Bronx bar overheard Olivieri and Louis Moscatiello, a Genovese crime family official charged with overseeing his group's construction rackets: "Forde wants somebody," Moscatiello said, in apparent reference to the union chief. "Get it done as fast as possible."


Meanwhile, Forde regularly assured Judge Haight that the council was doing everything it could to stamp out corruption. "No union does as much as the District Council," his representatives defiantly claimed over and over. But when monitor number three, a former federal prosecutor named Walter Mack, reported that Murray and other contractors were cheating the union out of millions in wages and benefit payments right under the nose of Forde's shop stewards, the council leader grew incensed. He dispatched his second-in-command, a former dockbuilder named Pete Thomassen, (pictured left) to tell the judge that Mack was too difficult and costly and that the council wanted to exercise its right to remove him. Haight agreed, and Mack was replaced.

Last August, the feds indicted Olivieri, O'Neill, and Forde. He was the fourth council chief in a row to be charged with corruption. Most of the evidence came from Murray, who cut his own deal after he was caught stealing more than $10 million from the union. To get to Murray, the feds had simply followed the leads provided by Walter Mack's original investigation, the one Forde had tried to shut down.

Things were even more out of control at the union than anyone thought. At his arrest, Forde flunked the drug test, testing positive for coke and pot. After the international union ordered the council into trusteeship, it found rampant drug use. One council official (Thomassen's Son) shaved his head, his eyebrows, even his eyelashes in an apparent effort to beat new mandatory tests. Thomassen, Forde's number two, resigned this month, amid evidence that tens of thousands of dollars in dues money went for posh restaurants and resorts.

In Judge Haight's courtroom on Thursday, assistant U.S. attorney Ben Torrance rose to ask the judge to sign off on the latest watchdog for the union, a former state organized crime prosecutor named Dennis Walsh. This Walsh is no relation to Billy the carpenter, but he knows the territory, having spent several years in the mid '90s assisting monitor number two when he won the admiration of many rank-and-filers.

Haight had Walsh detail his experience. Then he asked the carpenters in the gallery if they wanted to say anything. Billy Walsh passed, but beside him, a member named Mike Bilello, a carpenter since 1975, rose and stepped past the maple rail to speak at the podium.

"I think this is our last chance," said Bilello. "We've been going through this for 20 years. We need something drastic."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Exclusive: Plea Agreement Finbar O'Neill

Exclusive...Finbar O'Neill, the contractor prosecutors accused of delivering cash payments to indicted carpenter boss Michael Forde, pleaded guilty on May 20, to making payments to Forde, in excess of $100,000 over a ten-year period, on behalf of On Par and KAFCI in exchange for appointment of shop stewards who would permit cash payments to carpenters and other favorable treatment. Below is the transcript of the court plea.
o'Neill Plea

Monday, May 24, 2010

Page Six

We hear...THAT Paul Pietropaolo, who reportedly made $138,971 last year as a district council collection agent, was appointed business agent to Local 45 by UBC Supervisor Frank Spencer.

Sources say Spencer made the appointment as a favor to Pete Thomassen, the head of the scandal-scarred carpenters union, who recently resigned amid revelations of massive spending on steak dinners, junkets and parties. Insiders say Pietropaolo, who join the union 10 years ago, never worked in the field or with tools. He was hired as a security guard from Bo Dietl Associates as a favor, then moved up to collection agent.

Friday, May 21, 2010

St. Louis Union Construction Workers Too Lazy and Costly, Says Head of Union

Terry Nelso

The head of the St. Louis Carpenters' District Council of Greater St. Louis is making waves for comments he recently made in the press, blaming his members for being unproductive and contributing to ever-growing construction costs in the region.

Speaking to the Illinois Business Journal this month, Terry Nelson, executive secretary-treasurer of the union, said that it costs 28 percent more to build in St. Louis compared to Chicago.

"The guy in Chicago, believe it or not, he worked 7 ½ hours today while the guy in St. Louis only worked 4 ½," Nelson tells IBJ.

"Where did that other 3 ½ hours go?" adds Nelson. "When my carpenters walk on the job, their cost to the contractor is $1.03 a minute. That's their wages, their benefits, the workmen's compensation and yada, yada, yada and all the stuff that goes with that. You just think for a minute, if you've got 10 guys on the job, that's $10 a minute. They all leave 10 minutes early, there went $100 out the door."

Nelson told the paper that the "arrogance and attitude" of union members has led more and more contractors away from hiring organized labor. Today only 11 percent of all construction being performed in the nation is done by the hands of union members, says Nelson.

"The thing that kills unions is our arrogance and our attitude," continues Nelson. "Like we are God's gift to everybody. Like without us the world comes to and end. Whoever believes that BS is nuts. But we buy into that stuff. I haven't bought into it. I'm on the other side of the street. But again, I'm not the most loved guy in a labor meeting; that's just the way it is."

Gee, ya think?

Contractor O’Neill Pleas Guilty To Making Payments To Indicted Carpenter Boss Forde

Exclusive...Finbar O'Neill, the contractor prosecutors accused of delivering cash payments to indicted carpenter boss Michael Forde, pleaded guilty yesterday to making payments to Forde, in excess of $100,000 over a ten-year period, on behalf of On Par and KAFCI in exchange for appointment of shop stewards who would permit cash payments to carpenters and other favorable treatment (see information).

On Par Contracting Corporation, was one of the city's busiest construction firms, owned by contractor James Murray. Murray went on the lam in Ireland after he was indicted on federal fraud and embezzlement charges in 2006.

Court records show he was freed on $8 million bond in November 2008 and began plea bargain negotiations with Assistant Manhattan U.S. Attorney Lisa Zornberg, who is prosecuting Forde.

Sources say On Par is one of six unnamed companies that paid bribes to Forde and his cohorts. "It appears Murray may be Contractor No. 1, the unindicted co-conspirator with the deepest involvement in the bribery scheme."

Murray was taught by the best: His first boss in the business was another politically active builder and a reputed Luchese crime family associate, named Finbar O'Neill, who controlled KAFCI, along with Murray, has twice pleaded guilty to his own schemes.

Murray and O'Neill's first company was a wallboard-hanging outfit called K&F Construction. The company was infamous for paying its workers by piece-rate, in violation of the union contract.

Carpenters appropriately renamed K&F as "Kick'em & Fuck'em."

After O'Neill's criminal problems drew heat, Murray went out on his own, operating out of the same Bronx building where O'Neill had been based. The new company, On Par, quickly landed many of the biggest jobs, including the massive conversion of the old office building at 63 Wall Street. It also became notorious for preferring to pay its employees in untraceable cash.

That was the conclusion of Walter Mack, the former court-appointed monitor whose job, thanks to a 20-year-old consent decree, was to check up on the union's operations. "On Par habitually paid carpenters in cash," wrote Mack in a 2005 memo, thus "cheating the district council's benefit funds of well over $10 million that I have been able to identify."

Mack also noted that Murray was assisted by a team of hand-picked union shop stewards who cleverly manipulated the union's appointment process. The designated stewards conveniently neglected to list dozens of union employees on required reports for the union.

It has been well documented by Mack that, District Council Carpenter bosses Mike Forde, Pete Thomassen and Dennis Sheil, "engaged in, at least, willful ignorance" of the corrupt conduct by companies like Tri-Built and On Par, which are believed to be two of the six unnamed contractors in the indictment and were notorious among carpenters as "cash" companies, yet permitted to work corrupt for years.

Dennis Sheil retired on December 31, 2009

Pete Thomassen, (aka, "Sneaky Pete") the much criticized asssistant supervisor, and last man standing in Mike Forde's disgraced “Unity Team," suddenly resigned on Thursday May 6.

Thomassen, the former district council president, never once informed the delegate body or membership about the revelations of corruption that Mack discovered and reported on taking place at the district council.

O’Neill was indicted with Forde and nine others on August 5, 2009.  The 29-count indictment alleges Michael Forde, and nine others were involved in a scheme in which $1 million in bribes and gifts changed hands.

Finbar O’Neill was involved in the scheme in which prosecutors say, union officials falsified reports and turned a blind eye as contractors paid workers below the union rate, hired non-union labor at union only job sites, and skipped out on payments to the unions’ benefits funds.

The benefit funds provide insurance as well as money for retirement for union members.

O’Neill is accused of delivering bribes to Michael Forde and pleaded in Manhattan Federal Court, faces five years in prison.

 On May 3, Page Six reported that, BRIAN CARSON and JOHN STAMBERGER, the two shop stewards charged in the August 5, 2009 indictment along with Forde and others, has also resulted in guilty pleas.

Indicted Aug. 5 were Mr. Forde, the head of the Carpenters Union District Council in New York City; John Greaney, business manager and president of Carpenters Local 608; Brian Hayes, a business agent and Local 608 officer; Mr. Brennan, Brian Carson, Joseph Ruocco, John Stamberger, and Michael Vivenzo, shop stewards; and Mr. Olivieri, a benefits fund trustee and the executive director of the Wall, Ceiling and Carpentry Industries of New York, a trade group representing unionized contractors and Finbar O’Neill who prosecutors accused of helping to deliver cash to Mr. Forde.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Local 157, Local 608, Local 1536 and Local 2287 Representatives Relocated to the District Council

Local 157, Local 608, Local 1536 and Local 2287 representatives will be working together on a daily basis out of the Business Representative Center located in the NYC District Council offices to cohesively build our market share and protect the area standards that are set.

All shop stewards working in Local 157 and Local 608 jurisdictions will report to the Labor Technical College 2nd floor common room on Wednesday and Thursday mornings between 6 am and 8 am to drop off their shop steward reports.

Working together, these representatives will be rotated throughout Manhattan and the Bronx to protect our work.  Normal union business, including dues collection will continue to be carried out in Local Union offices.

You can reach all representatives at the Business Representative Center by phone at 212.366.7345 and by fax at 212.366.7342.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Union Losses Being Probed

By ERIC ANDERSON BUSINESS EDITOR

A spokesman for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America said the national union is conducting a "complete wall-to-wall review" of the troubled Empire State Regional Council of Carpenters, which it took over in late April.

Scott Widmeyer, a spokesman for the national union, said he couldn't verify reports that $160 million in pension and other benefit funds may have been lost after the Empire Council invested money with Bernard Madoff, who has admitted he operated a Ponzi scheme.

"To verify that number presently would be premature," he said. "The goal is to get things to a situation ... to minimize losses to the union and its members."

Widmeyer confirmed that the national union placed the Empire Council under supervision following two days of hearings at the end of March in downtown Albany.

The national union's vice president for the Eastern District, Frank G. Spencer, has been put in charge of the Empire Council.

Among the locals affected is Carpenters Local 370 in Albany, which has 900 members in the Capital Region. It had money in several employee benefit plans that invested with Madoff.

But the Empire Council may have made the situation worse for the upstate locals by allocating a greater portion of the losses upstate.

Widmeyer said it was too soon to say whether the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which guarantees pension plans, would have a role to play in safeguarding carpenters' pensions.

"Again, the focus presently is on getting a complete handle on the losses and working to minimize losses," Widmeyer said.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ex-N.J. carpenters union official convicted of embezzling $85K to fund go-go bar binges

By Joe Ryan/The Star-Ledger

SOMERVILLE — A former carpenters union official from Somerset County was convicted in federal court in Trenton today of pocketing $85,000 from the organization to host hundreds of lunchtime drinking sprees at go-go bars.

shawn-clark-union-official-85k-theft.JPG
Shawn Clark (right), a former carpenters union official who served on the Raritan Valley Community College board of trustees, at the Clarkson S. Fisher Federal Courthouse earlier this month with his attorney John H. Fahy. Clark is accused of illegally charging $85,000 to the labor organization's credit card, mostly at go-go bars.
After deliberating less than six hours, a jury found Shawn Clark, 45, guilty of embezzlement for using the union’s American Express card during more than 450 visits over seven years to watering holes that included Johnny A's Hitching Post in Paterson and Pure Go Go in Manville. He faces up to five years in prison for each of the 16 counts in the indictment.

“You treated that card as if it were your own – didn’t you?” Assistant U.S. Attorney V. Grady O’Malley asked Clark during a cross examination.

Clark, the ex-business manager for Local 455 of the International Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, spent hours on the stand last week arguing he was conducting union meetings at the clubs. Part of his job, he said, was drumming up union business by entertaining contractors, tradesmen and the occasional politician who felt at ease around pulsing music and dancing women.

“It’s a guys’ type of place,” Clark said.

But prosecutors said Clark, who was fired from the union in 2008, ruled the local with an "iron fist." To help conceal his bar tabs, which occasionally exceeded $1,000, he installed a close friend as treasurer, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Romankow. The prosecutor said Clark traveled to strip clubs miles away from the union’s office in Somerville, buying untold number of beers, shots with Red Bull chasers and tiny bottles of Chardonnay for the women on stage.

“Are strippers part of any business lunch?” Romankow asked the jury.

With roughly 600 members, Local 455 represents workers in Somerset and Hunterdon counties. Clark took over in 1996 from his father, George Clark, who ran the local for 25 years.

The defendant’s lawyer, James J. Fahy described Clark as a father and hard-working “suburban-type guy" who coached youth sports graduated from Glassboro State College.

He had been appointed by former governors Jon Corzine and James E. McGreevey to the Raritan Valley Community College board of trustees, but resigned after his arrest last June.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Local 2287 President Resigns Amid Spending Scandal

District Council Supervisor Frank Spencer, reported that Local 2287 President-Business Representative, Jeffrey Passante has resigned his as president, Spencer made the announcement at the May 12, delegate meeting.

The "investigation into misuse of local funds by executive delegate-business representative, Michael Zemski and Passante is ongoing" Spencer said.

Spencer appointed business representative, John McGraft to assist with the day to day operation of local 2287.

On April 25, Page Six reported that: Zemski and Passante were suspended without pay on April 15, for allegedly stealing petty cash and using the locals credit card for personal use. The extend of the financial wrong-doing has not been made public. Sources say both men have refused to answer questions by the Independent Investigator, William Callahan. It is not known if formal charges will be filed against the two men or an independent financial audit ordered for the local. UBC supervisor Frank Spencer has no official comment and has not placed the local under supervision.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

National Union Seizes State Offices

Carpenters leaders alleged wrongdoing by downstate officials 

By ERIC ANDERSON BUSINESS EDITOR

ALBANY -- A statewide union representing hundreds of Capital Region carpenters has been taken over by the national union in the wake of heavy investment losses in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.

The takeover came less than a month after closed-door hearings in Albany into alleged improprieties at the Empire State Regional Council of Carpenters.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America has imposed "supervision" of the Empire State Council and put Frank G. Spencer, vice president for the Eastern District, in charge.


Upstate members saw health accounts wiped out and pension and annuity funds drained.
One member had to pay a monthly premium of $1,060 to keep his health insurance, McCarron wrote. McCarron didn't return a call Wednesday for comment.

Among the locals affected by the Madoff losses was Carpenters Local 370 in Albany, which has about 900 members in the Capital Region. It had money in several employee benefit plans that invested with Madoff.

A consultant to the investment manager of the benefit funds, Ivy Asset management, on Tuesday was sued by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who accused it of deliberately misleading clients about Madoff so it could collect millions of dollars in fees.

"These defendants violated their basic responsibility as investment advisers by putting their own financial interests ahead of their clients," Cuomo said. "They shamelessly profited off of their own clients' impending misfortune and we are holding them accountable for their actions."

An Ivy spokesman said the firm had told its clients it had questions about Madoff and had recommended they reduce their exposure.

Also on Tuesday, Spencer, who will oversee the Empire Council, called a mandatory staff meeting at the Council's office in Hawthorne.

At the meeting, Spencer said Morin, the Empire secretary and treasurer, had been removed, and that all labor trustees of the Empire funds had been relieved of their duties.

The UBC is also auditing the Empire Council's financial records and, in a switch from past practice, fund documents, minutes and financial records would all be accessible to union members, Spencer told them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Union Big Resigns Amid Spending Scandal While Workers Struggle

BY Alison Gendar and Brian Kates

Pete Thomassen the head of the scandal-scarred carpenters union has resigned amid revelations of massive spending on steak dinners, junkets and parties.

The wild bills - like $13,000 for a single meal at a Manhattan restaurant - came to light while half the union's leadership is under indictment and the feds are pushing to break the mob's grip on the organization.

The District Council of Carpenters denied Peter Thomassen's resignation as president had anything to do with the eye-popping sums in the union's 2009 annual report.

Spending under his leadership has long outraged the rank-and-file, many of whom are struggling for work while brass are dining at the Old Homestead steakhouse in the Meatpacking District. "The big spending under Pete Thomassen is yet another example of the culture of corruption at the top of the District Council," said a dissident blogger who asked not to be named. "These guys are living it up with the members' money."

The annual report filed with the Labor Department offers little explanation of the expenditures, including how many people attended staff meetings, dinners and conferences. Many of the expenses are described as "non-itemized."

It's also unclear whether Thomassen attended, although he did sign off on the report covering union activities between June 2008 and June 2009.

In a single day - Jan. 5, 2009 - union brass dropped $20,683 at a conference in the Beverly Hills Hilton and an additional $9,692 on a staff meeting at the Old Homestead.

On May 28, there was a $13,545 tab at Valbella, a pricey eatery in the Meatpacking District.

On the lower end of the food chain, union bigwigs okayed $19,854 in meals at the SoHo deli Getting Hungry and paid $8,474 to the Liberty Cafe in midtown last year.

Then there are the out-of-state confabs: a $13,592 stay at an Atlanta Holiday Inn in June 2008 and a $9,552 stay at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla.

The union paid J.C. Fogarty's Town Tavern, a Bronxville, Westchester County, catering hall, a whopping $60,509 in September 2008 for what's described as "charity softball tournament event." Owner John Fogarty did not return calls.

The union paid $7,315 for another charity softball event in September 2008 to Send in the Clowns Entertainment.

"They spent how much on Send in the Clowns?" quipped one unemployed carpenter. "I'm showing my age, but isn't the next line of that song - 'Don't worry, they're here?'"

Thomassen was paid $268,827 last year.

A District Council spokesman gave no explanation for his resignation but denied it was linked to a request last week for the appointment of an ex-prosecutor to monitor the union.

The union's executive secretary-treasurer, Michael Forde, and nine cohorts were indicted on racketeering charges last August.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Empire Council Placed Under Supervision

It’s official, the Empire State Council of Carpenters was placed under supervision by the UBC on April 26, 2010. Patrick Morin was removed as EST. Frank Spencer has been appointed supervisor and Benjamin Glenn assistant supervisor. For more information click here.

On March 30 the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America scheduled hearings at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Albany to look into the management of union pension, annuity and health funds by the Empire State Regional Council.

Upstate union members may have been "discriminated against" in allocating losses from the Madoff investments, wrote Douglas J. McCarron, general president of the UBC, in a 10-page letter to Patrick B. Morin, executive secretary-treasurer of the Empire State Regional Council.

In one case, the loss of a $6.4 million investment with Madoff made by the Empire Welfare Fund was allocated entirely to the former participants in the Upstate Health Fund, even though it had been folded into the Empire Fund and dissolved two years earlier, McCarron wrote.

Upstate members saw their fund accounts dwindle; in one case, a member's health account was wiped out, and he had to pay a monthly premium of $1,060 to keep his health insurance, McCarron wrote.

A trustee from the former upstate funds may have been illegally barred from board meetings when Madoff issues were being discussed. Madoff had admitted operating a massive Ponzi scheme that cost investors billions of dollars and is now in prison.

And while the Empire Council had agreed to provide information about the allocation of Madoff losses, McCarron wrote, much of it hadn't yet been provided.

Union members' concerns about the health of their retirement and other funds were first described in a story March 15, 2009, in the Times Union.

At that time, several members, including Charles Lezette and Rich Dorrough, said that Empire Council officials weren't sharing much information about the Madoff losses. They told them that their annuity fund was "temporarily on hold and we can't touch it," Dorrough recalled at the time.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thomassen Resigns, Indictment Expected

BREAKING NEWS, STORY STILL DEVELOPING...Pete Thomassen, (aka, "Sneaky Pete") the much criticized asssistant supervisor, and last man standing in Mike Forde's disgraced “Unity Team," suddenly resigned on Thursday May 6. Inside sources say Thomassen has hired a lawyer and is expected to be indicted soon.

Insiders said Supervisor Frank Spencer held a close door meeting with Thomassen and painted him as a continuation of the Forde's administration's failed policies.

On August 5, 2009 carpenter boss Mike Forde, along with nine others were arrested and charged with a 29-count indictment for corruption, racketeering, bribery and perjury, in a conspiracy that stretches over a decade, involving six contractors, business agents, business manager, benefit fund trustees, shop stewards, associates, council employees and testing positive for cocaine use.

On May 3, 2010 Page Six reported: "BRIAN CARSON and JOHN STAMBERGER, the two shop stewards charged in the August 5, 2009 indictment along with MIKE FORDE, has resulted in guilty pleas to numerous acts of corruption and are said to pay a $100,000 fine, serve 30 months in prison, and have been singing like canary's to the feds."

On September 11, 2009 I wrote Spencer a letter and criticized his highly questionable action of naming Thomassen as his assistant supervisor following the “emergency supervision”.

“As supervisor you could have used your authority and named an individual from outside the district council and/or local union untouched by scandal and corruption. Maybe some other business manager or business agent could have brought a fresh perspective and new direction to both council and local operations. Instead by naming Mr. Thomassen who has become embroiled in so many disgraceful scandals that he has proved himself entirely unworthy of membership trust or authority you have signaled to the membership you are not serious in cleaning up the District Council and its “business as usual”.

Every carpenter I have spoken with on the condition of anonymity agreed that Thomassen should have been fired along with Mike Forde. "Thomassen has betrayed the carpenters, has no integrity, was Forde's biggest enabler and defender, and he has broken the sacred bond of trust between union officials and the members that elect them."

On April 25, 2010 Page Six reported: "The feds are not finished investigating the scandal-scared New York City District Council of Carpenters. Informed sources say a grand jury is hearing testimony against Pete Thomassen, for among other things, allegedly authorizing huge pay raises without delegate approval to his assistant and his son, the hiring of Council employees with close ties to 
Thomassen, personal use of Council property, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on 5 star restaurants, hotels, first class plane tickets, misuse and fraud regarding the Carpenters Charity and Relief Fund and having work done on his house by a union contractor in exchange for letting the contractor pay employees at his work sites below minimum wage and off the books."

The scandel-scared Thomassen has been sharply criticized following the recent revelations regarding his executive assistant, MARIA SABATER, who was fired last Friday for allegedly using a union issued credit card for personal expenses authorized by Thomassen. Insiders said Sabater, who reportedly makes over $100,000 annually, ran up over $25,000 in personal charges on the district council's credit card.

He has also been attacked for his alleged role in covering-up his sons actions, John Thomassen, a council employee who shaved off the hair on his head and removed all the hair from his body in order to avoid detection of drug use.

The following is a partial reprint of my September 11, 2009 letter to Spencer (which I never received a response) and testimony given at the UBC Hearing detailing Thomassen’s actions as council president:

Peter Thomassen along with Dennis Sheil was part of Mike Forde's “Unity Team”. Both were and are his biggest supporters, defenders and enablers of the “culture of corruption” that exist at the district council.

As a delegate to the district council from 1999 to 2008 and a candidate for district council vice president in 2008 I can state conclusively that Mr.Thomassen never once informed the delegate body about the corruption the Independent Investigator, Walter Mack, discovered and reported in numerous reports (Boom, Tri-Built, Special Request, among others) taking place at the district council.

From 2003 thru 2005 Mr. Mack uncovered nests of job site corruption, where shop stewards routinely falsified reports and accepted bribes to allow certain contractors to routinely operate large “cash jobs” on major construction sites without detection from the district council.

Mack’s detailed reports show not only that corruption continues to infiltrate the union, but also that District Council officers and business agents have done an “inadequate job of weeding it out and have been either complicit in corruption or, at a minimum, not doing their jobs”.

On June 3, 2005 Mack filed a report on Tri-Built Construction, a corrupt drywall contractor that operated in New York City and Long Island. In the report, among other things, Mack wrote “unfortunately, I have been stymied in my attempts to explore how and with whose assistance a corrupt employee would be able to remove shop steward reports from the District Council’s offices. At the current stage of the investigation, it is impossible to know how many other contractors were able to cheat the District Council and the Benefit Funds with this crude but effective methodology, but I am certain that others exist”.

It is well documented that the district council knew of Tri-Built’s corruption as early as April 2004, most likely even earlier, and did nothing to stop it. No job shut downs, no audits, no business agents informed, no shop stewards removed, nothing.

In November of 2004 Thomassen obstructed Mack's investigation of Tri-built and hired Kroll to take over the investigation from Mack. Thomassen never informed or reported to the delegate body Mack's detailed reports, investigations of corruption, the blocking of Mack's investigation and the hiring of Kroll. To date the findings of the Kroll investigation are unknown.

Time and time again what was Thomassen response to Mack’s revelations about corruption, ignore it and attack the messenger.

In December 2004 the District Council, led by Thomassen, gave notice to Mack by letter, of its intent to fire him; the termination letter cites no reason or cause for terminating Mack.

Thomassen informed the delegates of this action, after the fact on May 11, 2005 at a regular schedule delegate body meeting. Thomassen said the council was unhappy with the “run away cost and the abuse” from Mack. “You don’t know what we went through; It’s been a rough two years of abuse to our members and business agents.” Thomassen also chastised the frivolous anonymous callers to the Hotline Mack operated saying, “if a member has corruption to report he should leave his name”. In the two years that Walter Mack has been investigating Thomassen said, Mack “did not find one business agent doing anything wrong".

Supporters of Mack believe he was fired because of the corruption he was uncovering (which Forde and others have been indicted) and the lack of will by the District Council Officers to combat it.

Mack also reported that the Districts Councils “anti-corruption program” lacked any truly independent investigator responsible for looking into allegations of corruption and found that the District Council was guilty of “at the very least negligence” and has been compromised and questioned the council’s commitment to combat corruption.

It should be noted that while Forde was distracted with his prior indictments and alleged drug use, twice he would be tried, the first he would be convicted and acquitted on appeal; the second he would be acquitted at trial, Thomassen was running the day-to-day council operations (Forde said as much during the 2008 elections).

In June 2001, in violation of the UBC constitution, 1994 Consent Decree and more importantly the trust of the membership, Thomassen along with Forde secretly bargained away the job referral rules, without notifying or seeking the approval of the 15-member negotiating team, the 88-member elected delegate body, the rank-and-file and the federal government who has oversight supervision.

On November 5, 2004 Mack filed a report on the 50/50 Rule and Request System. Mack concluded that bargaining away the job referral rules and the “current request system reduces the out-of-work-list into a paperwork dance with little value to anyone but the contractors who can select the Carpenters they want to work for them.” All the while, the district council encouraged out-of-work carpenters to use the out-of-work list as their source of employment.

Once again Thomassen never informed the delegates about Mack’s report or the devastating effects of the “request system”.

According to Thomassen's sworn testimony on April 12, 2005, the council negotiated the 2001 contract change with Joe Olivieri, (also indicted with Forde) a benefit fund trustee and director of the Association of Wall and Ceiling and Carpentry. According to Thomassen in exchange for “the best contract we have ever negotiated”, he “sold” the job referral rules to the association, and gave them what they wanted, the ability to request and hire 100% of the carpenter work force.

That contract change which Forde and/or Thomassen never reported to the delegates or membership, eviscerated the job referral rules, effectively rendered the 50/50 rule a nullity, left carpenters vulnerable to corruption, reduce the out-of-work list into a meaningless “paperwork dance”, violated the 1994 Consent Decree, led to a guilty of contempt charge on February 20, 2007 by the United States Court of Appeals, cost millions of dollars in litigation, left carpenters to languish on a phony out-of-work list without knowledge that their was little hope of getting a job, deprived the union of having at the job site carpenters whose primary loyalty is to the union rather than the contractor and led us to where we are today!

Thomassen deceived everyone, from the delegate body, to the membership to the federal government. For that act alone Pete Thomassen should be brought up on charges for defrauding the union and egregious breach of fiduciary responsibility.

Mr. Thomassen has never acknowledged any wrong doing on his part and has stated, everything he did “was with the knowledge of the delegate body”. Minutes of the delegate body meeting and current indictment however do not support that claim.

Thomassen also has never ever presented to the delegate body (which he has a duty to do so) a detailed budget of the district council for approval by the delegates. Since the “Unity Teams” election in 1999 District Council spending has skyrocketed from $19 million to over $50 million in 2008!

In June of 2003, Thomassen and the benefit fund trustees created a new benefit fund know as the “Supplemental Pension Fund”. Thomassen at the time told the delegates “our welfare fund was doing so well that the trustees have decided beginning July 1, 2003 to reduced the hourly contributions in the welfare fund by $1 per hour and reallocate the $1 per hour into this new fund”.

Thomassen also stated “this reallocation of $1 per hour from the welfare fund to the “supplemental pension fund” is seamless to the membership and only a temporary measure as a way to infuse some extra money into the pension fund to help build up the pension fund assets” and "the trustees will monitor the funds closely and move the $1 per hour back to the welfare fund should it become necessary."

Fast forward present day: this $1 dollar per hour “Supplemental Pension Fund” has now grown to over 100 million dollars where members see no pension benefit credit. Members have had a portion of their yearly hourly raises directed into the welfare fund and yet this “temporary supplemental pension fund”, which we never had before, still exists! It begs the question, why?

In all these action’s, Mr. Thomassen has failed to inform and has deceived the delegate body and the membership of this union that pays his salary. Time and time again Mr. Thomassen has mislead and lied to the membership and delegate body.

As president, Thomassen not only has demonstrated his moral failings, but his unwillingness to detect corruption and/or drug use taking place foot steps from his office. Instead he has enabled it, protected it, covered it up and watched it flourish on his watch.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

An Open Letter To UBC General President Douglas McCarron

(The following letter was emailed to me anonymously, and requested that I post it)
McCarron

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Judge Haight Holds Hearing On Proposed Review Officer

2010-05-04 Csh Order Re Stip Papers, Hearing

Thomassen’s Assistant Fired For Theft Of Union Funds

Assistant Supervisor and former disgraced “Unity Team” president Pete Thomassen’s executive assistant, MARIA SABATER, was fired last Friday, for allegedly using a union issued credit card for personal expenses.

Inside sources say the highly paid (over $100,000 yearly) Sabater, ran up over $25,000 in personal charges on the district council's credit card. Thomassen authorized Sabater to have use of a council credit card and cell phone, paid for with union funds.

"I am absolutely shocked, why isn't Pete held accountable?” a carpenter said who did not want his name used for fear of retaliation.

Sabater, has been employed by the District Council, as Thomassen’s executive assistant since 2000. Prior to that she was employed by Dockbuilders Local Union 1456, as its office manager beginning in 1995.

It is unknown how and when the union eventually discovered the alleged pattern of theft by Sabater, or if they contacted the Department of Labor or federal authorities to request an investigation.

Almost all the carpenters I have spoken with on the condition of anonymity agreed, that this union is in serious need of “major reform.”

Supervisor Frank Spencer has been criticized for his highly questionable action of naming Peter Thomassen as his assistant supervisor following the “emergency supervision”.

On August 5, 2009 carpenter boss Mike Forde, along with nine others were arrested and charged with a 29-count indictment for corruption, racketeering, bribery and perjury, in a conspiracy that stretches over a decade, involving six contractors, business agents, business manager, benefit fund trustees, shop stewards, associates, council employees and testing positive for cocaine use.

UBC General President Douglas McCarron fired Forde, local 608 business manager, John Greaney and local 608 business agent, Brian Hayes, on August 13, 2009 and ordered an “emergency supervision” of the district council and appointed Vice President Frank Spencer, supervisor.

"Thomassen should be fired, he betrayed the carpenters, has no integrity and was Forde's biggest enabler and defender," a source said.

In 2007 Thomassen, was found guilty of contempt of court for violating the Consent Decree by failing to give the Government prior notice of the District Council’s intent to enter into collective bargaining agreements in 2001 with associations of contractors that altered job referral rules.

"First Pete sells out the carpenters with the 2001 contract, then he lies about it, then he turns a blind eye to contractor corruption indentified in the Forde indictment, then his son shaves his body hair to avoid detection of drug use and receives a big salary increase, and now his assistant allegedly steals union funds, it's just incredible.”

Monday, May 3, 2010

Page Six

BREAKING NEWS, STORY STILL DEVELOPING...Sources say, BRIAN CARSON and JOHN STAMBERGER, the two shop stewards charged in the August 5, 2009 indictment along with MIKE FORDE and others, has resulted in guilty pleas to numerous acts of corruption and are said to pay a $100,000 fine and serve 30 months in prison.

Insiders said the two shop stewards have been singing like canary's to the feds about District Council Director of Operations and Local 608 Recording Secretary; MAURICE LEARY, ($204,345) and out-of-work-list supervisor; SCOTT DANIELSON, ($214,224) the source said LEARY has resigned and both men have hired lawyers.

The August 5, 2009, indictment by a grand jury charged various acts of racketeering against Michael Forde, District Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer and a trustee of the Benefit Funds,  John Greaney, Business Manager of Local Union 608 and a trustee of the Benefit Funds; Brian Hayes, Business Representative for Local Union 608 and Local 608 Executive Board Trustee; and Shop Stewards Michael Brennan, Brian Carson, Joseph Ruocco, John Stamberger, and Michael Vivenzio, along with Joseph Olivieri, a contractor association representative and a trustee of the Benefit Funds, and Finbar O’Neill, a contractor.