A federal district judge in Newark, N.J., on Tuesday appointed a new trustee to take over the affairs of a scandal-ridden Teamster local that was dominated for 25 years by alleged organized crime figure Anthony (Tony Pro) Provenzano.
Judge Harold A. Ackerman named Edwin Stier, a Somerville, N.J., lawyer who is now in private practice, to oversee 7,800-member Local 560, which is based in Union City, N.J. The judge ordered Stier to report back to him within six months on how long the union must be kept under trusteeship to restore union democracy and eliminate racketeer influence. The trusteeship originally was scheduled to expire in December.
Stier previously served as director of the state's Division of Criminal Justice. The judge also appointed Frank Jackiewicz, formerly president of another New Jersey Teamsters local, to serve as associate trustee.
Last June, Ackerman imposed a government-supervised trusteeship on Local 560. It was the first to be imposed under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law. Tuesday, he commended Joel R. Jacobson, the first trustee, who is a longtime union activist and former New Jersey Casino Control Commission member, for his "earnest and energetic efforts in planting the seeds of honest trade unionism within Local 560 and in improving the quality of representation of the membership."
But he quickly added, in a written court order: "Given the cloud of fear and intimidation within Local 560 that the Provenzano crime group has generated over a 25-year period, more remains to be done in order to ensure that the documented egregious pattern of racketeering activity does not re-emerge the moment that the trusteeship is ended."
Elements of the Provenzano organization are still active in the local and have told other members that they eventually will regain power, according to members of the local and other sources.
Before appointing Jacobson last June, Ackerman had ousted Local 560 President Michael Sciarra and the rest of the union's elected leadership and its pension and welfare fund trustees. Earlier, he issued consent decrees that bar Provenzano, who is serving a 20-year term for federal labor racketeering violations in Lompoc Federal Prison, from participating in or interfering with the affairs of the local for the rest of his life.
Provenzano's brother, Nunzio, and Thomas Andretta, an associate of the Provenzanos, are the subject of similar decrees. Two other Provenzano allies--Stephen Andretta and Gabriel Briguglio--also were prohibited from further involvement with Local 560 after a 1984 trial.
Ackerman's actions were praised by Herman Benson, president of the Assn. for Union Democracy, a public interest organization based in Brooklyn.
"This is an extremely important test case," Benson said. "If the trusteeship succeeds here, it could be done elsewhere."
He added: "Judge Ackerman has a firm position that the dominance of the Provenzano gang has to be eliminated from that local. But he also is aware that you have to produce a substitute, decent leadership. This has to come from the membership of that union. To do that, you have to lift the climate of fear that existed in the local. I believe the move he is making is designed to strengthen those objectives."
One member of the local, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Jacobson had done a number of good things, such as improving welfare and pension plan benefits.
"He was a good representative, but he was too much of a diplomat trying to please everyone," the member said. "We don't need a politician here. We need a police action."
Last year, the President's Commission on Organized Crime said that 36 Teamster locals had Mafia links.