Laborers Looted

A top officer of the Mason Tenders Union helps himself to the members' money

Silveri repaid the money last year after union auditors questioned him about the matter. As leader of the Mason Tenders, Silveri was credited with pushing the union to actively organize nonunion construction contractors, and also pressed it to fight for on-the-job safety improvements and to aid immigrants, who make up a large proportion of the union's membership.

Silveri's attorney, Jason Solotaroff, declined comment on his client's arrest. A complaint filed last week by the Manhattan district attorney charged Silveri with grand larceny.

Many of the details of the spending scandal were made public for the first time in September, at hearings held by the national union on placing both the District Council and Local 79 under supervision—which is considered one step below trusteeship.

Offices of Laborers Local 79: Battered again by corruption
photo: Cary Conover
Offices of Laborers Local 79: Battered again by corruption

At the hearings, union investigators presented evidence concerning Kearney's embezzlements, as well as what they said were inflated bills for construction and fixtures at the union's offices, currently on Eighth Avenue.

Patrick Slevin, an attorney representing the union's court-appointed monitor, said that Kearney, who oversaw purchases for the council and Local 79, had failed to get bids for the work. Slevin cited a $12,000 bill from a construction firm for less than a dozen wall shelves. In addition, almost $500,000 in office equipment was bought through a company called Tribeca Office Supply, which Slevin referred to as a "mom and pop supply store." Among the items purchased through the company, according to invoices presented at the hearing, were "7 brass desk accessories, 10 brass wastebaskets, 7 brass business card holders"—at a cost of $9,300.

Another invoice showed that the union bought 40 leather chairs at a cost of $1,600 apiece, and 13 "officer's chairs" at $1,700 each. Slevin said that investigators learned that the owners of Tribeca were friends of a union employee. When investigators asked union officials about the expenditures, they were told that they "didn't really know what the cost of this furniture was going to be until the bills came in. We assumed that Dan Kearney was looking at cost."

The union probers also said that, following the expenditures, Tribeca gave gifts to several union officials and employees. Cefalo received a leather Coach bag valued at $450, and Loscalzo received a Waterford desk clock worth $150. An office secretary got five $100 American Express gift checks. Slevin said the owners of Tribeca refused to respond to questions from the union's investigators.

A handful of members addressed the hearing after the presentation of evidence. One of them was Pete DiNuzzo, a member of the union since 1986 who ran unsuccessfully for union office last year.

"It is a mess and a shame," said DiNuzzo. "I am a union guy and unions are good for people. But we shoot ourselves in the foot all the time."

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