While Francis C. DeBrouse headed the Teamster Union local representing Giant Food Inc.'s truck drivers, the grocery chain helped DeBrouse design a new home and provided him with 7,000 worth of carpet, a Giant official testified here today.
Alvin Dobbin, Giant's vice president for operations, told a U.S. District Court jury: "We wanted Frank DeBrouse as our friend, on our side, really."
The drivers represented by De rouse's local, who delivered goods to Giant's stores, were crucial to the firm's operations, Dobbin said, because "we have no other way to get our groceries. If there were a strike by (Local) 639, we would probably shut down."
The compnay executive said repeatedly that DeBrouse never theatened the food chain with harm if it failed to deliver what he wanted. But, he said, 'We didn't refuse because we felt it was wise to give it to him. We felt it wasn't wise to antagonize a labor leader."
DeBouse is on trial on labor racketeering, extrotion and tax fraud charges in connection with more than $200,000 worth of goods and services the prosecution contends he used his union position to obtain. He was president until 1977 of Local 639 which bargained with Giant on behalf of 225 truck drivers.
Giant Food pleaded guilty last June to making an illegal payment to DeBrouse to insure labor peace and was required to pay a $5,000 fine, make a $5,000 contribution to charity and cooperate in the investigation of DeBrouse.
Dobbin detailed an almost 20-year friendship with DeBrouse that began when Dobbin was director of distribution for Giant and DeBrouse was a business agent for the Teamster local. Over the years, Dobbin testified, the two played tennis and golf together and visited each other's homes.
Later, after DeBrouse became president of Local 639, DeBrouse asked Dobbin "if we had anybody who could give him advice on changing his office," since DeBrouse was not pleased with the decor, Dobbin said.
Robert N. Picardat, who at the time worked for Giant designing stores, went to DeBrouse's office with Dobbin and made suggestions, Dobbin said. Later, Pecardat helped the DeBrouse family design a beach house that was never built and designed the DeBrouse home in Davidsonville, Md., Picardat testified.
Picardat said he sent the bills for that work to Giant.
By that time, Picardat had left Giant but continued to work under a retainer for the food chain, he said. The two design jobs for DeBrouse were among the Giant projects covered by the retainer, he said. The design projects were referred to in some billings as the "Giant beach office" and the "meat warehouse job," according to evidence introduced yesterday.
Dobbin testified that in late 1973 he received a request from DeBrouse that "was in the nature of 'could Giant do anything to help me with carpet?'" With the permission of Giant's chief operating officer, Israel Cohen, who also approved the design services, Giant sold DeBrouse carpeting and billed him for Giant's cost -- $7,000, an amount discounted $3,300 from the retail cost, according to testimony.
The amount DeBrouse owed for the carpet was eventually written off as uncolectable debt by Giant, Dobbin testified. Dobbin said he was not aware whether DeBrouse knew the debt had been written off.
"Wasn't it just an ordinary request between friends?" asked defense attorney jack Stevens. "I have a lot of friends who don't make requests, so I can't say it was ordinary," Dobbin replied.
"It wasn't done in the context of 'I'm a labor leader that can cause you economic harm', was it?" asked Stevens.
"No," Dobbin said.