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OVERSEER IS NAMED IN LOCAL 210 SETTLEMENT

The federal government's racketeering lawsuit against Laborers Local 210, alleging longtime dominance by organized crime, was officially ended Monday when U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara signed a settlement agreement.

As part of the agreement, former FBI Special Agent John J. McDonnell was appointed to a five-year term as a court liaison officer with broad oversight powers to ensure that Local 210 remains free of influence by organized crime.

Steven Hammond, a trustee and recently appointed vice president of the Laborers International Union, will continue running Local 210's day-to-day operations, even under the consent decree.

Arcara had balked at signing the document in December, raising questions about conflicts of interest because the international parent of Local 210 helped bring the suit and also was running the union through a trustee.

Rather than scrap the agreement, U.S. Attorney Denise E. O'Donnell and attorneys from the international in Washington, D.C., agreed to have the parent union drop out of the civil racketeering suit.

Both parties, however, continued to emphasize that Local 210's cleanup continues to need outside supervision.

More than two dozen Local 210 members have been thrown out of the union since its parent union and the U.S. Justice Department agreed in 1995 to rid the union of organized crime.

The Local 210 racketeering suit, which named 16 co-conspirators tied to the local mob, alleged that mobsters have long controlled every aspect of the 1,200-member union.

In signing the agreement, Arcara rejected attempts by two Local 210 members, Samuel Capitano and Marc Panepinto, to intervene in the case on behalf of the membership. Arcara said he was convinced that the trustee, Hammond, already adequately represents the members but gave both men 60 days to file additional motions.

Arcara also announced that a suit filed to overturn the trustee's control of the union is now before him. Judge John T. Elfvin transferred the case.

Under terms of the consent agreement, the new court liaison officer will have the power to review:

All union expenditures and investments of more than $5,000 and veto any that furthers racketeering or violates the new international constitution.

All collective-bargaining agreements.

All proposed appointments to Local 210 offices, including the trustee, and all its business agents and field representatives.

The consent decree also gives the liaison officer the authority to call meetings of Local 210's leadership, approve or veto lawsuits filed by the union and apply to Arcara for authority to take other actions he finds necessary.

The agreement said union elections can be held anytime, once the liaison officer, the trustee and the federal government agree that fair and uncoercive elections can be held. If the liaison officer disagrees, the union trustee and the federal government can argue in court.

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