The Carpenters' Union Sell-Out

Carpenters' head cheats another generation of members

Charged as well were O'Neill, who has pled guilty, along with six other union officials. Olivieri, the mobbed-up contractors' association leader, is still hanging tough. Should he go to trial, which seems unlikely, the top witness against him will be his old deer-hunting pal, Jim Murray. The millionaire Irish contractor cut his own deal last year with Lisa Zornberg and Mark Lanpher, the relentless prosecutors handling the case.

Forde suffered further indignity at his arrest when he tested positive for cocaine. At his guilty plea last week, he told the judge that he is now in a drug and alcohol recovery program. He'll have plenty of time to kick the habits. He faces at least nine years in prison when sentenced in November.

One of those who never bought Mike Forde's pledges of honesty was a 26-year veteran carpenter named Brian Brennan. Carpenters are a vocal lot and have no trouble airing their gripes, though these days, most of it is done anonymously on the Web. Brennan is one of the few who sticks his neck out. In May 2009, he participated in a small demonstration outside the District Council's Hudson Street offices against a cutback in benefits, the very funds Forde's pals were stiffing.

Brennan brought a sack of flour as a heavy-handed prop. "We called it 'Mike's coke.' Everyone knew he had a big habit." A fracas broke out when Brennan tried to go inside to confront benefit-fund officials. He was arrested, accused of hitting a security guard. "I didn't hit anybody," he said. "I'm the one got hit." The district attorney declined criminal charges, but Forde's lieutenants had him brought up before a union trial board. Brennan was ordered expelled and fined $25,000. His attorney, Robert Felix, is still trying to get national union officials to respond to his appeal.

"I'm out of work a year now," said Brennan. "I've got a family I'm trying to feed. Mike was in there all those years, making his deals with his friends. How are they ever going to get this union back together?"

trobbins@villagevoice.com

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