Plumbing the Depths

After Arrests, a Union Agrees to Its Own Investigation

On the eve of new elections in June, after the union had received government subpoenas and as the arrests of the three union officials were announced, Sclafani abruptly quit his $130,000-a-year post and declined to seek re-election. Reilly refused to speculate on the reasons for Sclafani's departure. "He was pushing 65 and he was ready to retire," he said, adding, "There was a feeling that we needed to change things." Sclafani did not return messages left at his home.

Reilly, who had worked as the union's second-ranking officer prior to Sclafani's quitting, ran unopposed for the top slot. Union members were split on their reaction to the arrests of other officials. Domenick Goffredo, who earned $108,000 a year as the local's business agent at large and faced charges of grand larceny and bribe receiving, was defeated by an insurgent, John Feeney. Thomas Parrella, a $103,000-a-year business agent also charged with grand larceny and bribery, was re-elected to his post, and David Aginsky, another business agent who faced similar charges, won election to the post of financial secretary unopposed.

Since then, all three officials have pled guilty. Parrella stepped down from his post and pled guilty to felonies in December, as did Goffredo. Aginsky pled to a misdemeanor count and remains in office. "I am disappointed in them," said Reilly. "You think you know someone and then you learn something else. They shortchanged the members."

New plumbers' union leader George Reilly: "Someone had to step up to the plate."
photo: Jay Muhlin
New plumbers' union leader George Reilly: "Someone had to step up to the plate."

Kroll's Bucknam declined to say whether any action against Aginsky or other members was pending. "We are taking stock and assessing the lay of the land," he said. He urged members with knowledge of wrongdoing to use a new toll-free number set up by the agreement, 1-866-PLUMB-01. "The more specific the information, the better," said Bucknam.

Jim McNamara, research director of the Association for Union Democracy, an organization that assists rank-and-file unionists, said it remained to be seen whether the new investigators will be able to change the culture of the plumbers' union. "The real test of the new monitors will be how they deal with the immediate problem of Aginsky," said McNamara. He also said members have expressed a need for changes in the hiring-hall referral system. "Right now, contractors and business agents are the ones in control of who gets hired," said McNamara.

Reilly said he believed the changes would ultimately benefit his union. "I got into this because someone had to step up to the plate. Some members said, 'Come on, George, you gotta do it.' We went through five and a half months of negotiations with the [attorney general] to get a fair agreement. I think we got one."

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