In a story on the Interstate Commerce Commission in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post, the congressional staff position of Katheleen Benson was incorrectly given. She is administrative assistant to Rep. John E. Moss (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Commerce investigations subcommittee.
Interstate Commerce Commission Chairman A. Daniel O'Neal yesterday placed two top staff members on "administrative leave" in the wake of a federal grand jury investigation into charges of possible organized crime influence on ICC trucking decisions.
In the first formal confirmation that ICC Secretary Robert L. Oswald and his deputy for congressional relations, Richard W. Kyle, are subjects of a Justice Department probe, O'Neal said the two men have been placed on leave "without prejudice or prejudgment and have been relieved of regular duties" within the nation's oldest regulatory body. The two will continue to draw their salaries.
Another person mentioned as being interviewed by government attorneys in the case is Oswald's wife, Kathleen Benson, a senior staff member of the House Commerce Committee.
Benson has told reporters that she is not under investigation, however, and investigation subcommittee Chairman John E. Moss (D-Calif.) said there has been "no meddling" by anyone on his staff in decisions at the ICC. He noted that the only form of ICC regulated transportation under his committee's jurisdiction currently is the railroad industry. Trucking and other transportation now are under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation.
Government sources said yesterday that the Justice Department probe, which is being coordinated by John Dawd, head of an organized crime "strike force," is looking into several New York based trucking firms that may be tied to organized crime figures.
Two firms mentioned specifically were Greenberg's Express. Inc., and Consolidated Carriers Corp. ICC records show that Hyman Ruff is president and a director of both firms. Also named as directors of both companies are Thomas Gambino, vice president, and Joseph Gambino, secretary-treasurer.
Reportedly, the Justice Department is seeking to find out if the "family" of the late Carlo Gambino in New York has influenced ICC decisions in the past. Reputed to be a Mafia "boss," Gambino died of a heart attack last October.
Thomas and Joseph Gambino are sons of Carlo Gambino, according to an ICC official, and Consolidated Carriers is listed in agency records as officially controlling Greenberg's Express.
As of yesterday, ICC Chairman O'Neal noted, his agency's staff members have not been presented with any formal charges.
O'Neal said he met with Justice Department officials Monday to receive a briefing on the matter. Sources said O'Neal requested the meeting after newspaper reports last weekend first revealed the investigation. Until Monday, the sources said, O'Neal had no communication with the Justice Department on the grand jury probe.
The ICC's office of secretary is the agency's top administrative post - all decisions pass through it before they are made public - and it has been a source of problems in previous years. Oswald's predecessor as secretary, H. Neil Garson, resigned in 1970 after the House Commerce Committee revealed that he had falsified expense account vouchers involving industry-sponsored conventions. The ICC regulates railroads, bus firms, trucking, inland waterway barge companies and oil pipelines.
Oswald took over as secretary in August, 1970. He had worked as an assistant to the chief hearing examiner from 1961 to 1965, and later was an administrative assistant to a congressman before returning to the ICC in 1966, in a congressional relations role.
Kyle joined the agency in 1965 and was a special assistant to ICC member Virginia Mae Brown before becoming congressional relations aide in 1971.
Neither Oswald nor Kyle could be contacted yesterday, but Kyle had said previously that he had not been contacted by government investigators and that he has retained a lawyer.
Chairman O'Neal declined to discuss any specific cases under investigation, but ordered his agency's investigations and Enforcement Division, headed by former Justice Department lawyer Peter Shannon, to make certain "that every door" continues to be open to the Justice Department probe into allegations covering ICC employees.
A telephone call placed yesterday to Greenburgs Express in New York was answered, "Consolidated" but neither President Ruff nor other company spokesman was avaiable for comment on the Justice Department probe. In fact, the unidentified person who answered the telephone declined to state what the name of his company was.
ICC records identify Ruff and Thomas Gambino as owners of three trucking firms in addition to Greenberg's and Consolidated - GRG Delivery Corp., Clothing Carriers Corp and Dynamic Delivery Corp.
An ICC division denied a request by Consolidated in 1970 to carry a variety of goods of interstate commerce, based on an examiners findings that the firm previously had shipped without ICC authority and had lied to agency staff members about discontinuance of such shipments.
When the firm took the ICC to court, the case was dismissed. Late in 1974, however, the ICC granted Consolidated much of the authority earlier sought.
Justice Department investigators also have been probing the possible involvement in ICC influence by Merle D. Baumgart, a well-known Washington lobbyist and former congressional aide who was killed on May 20, 1975.
The 40-year old lobbyist died in the early morning when the car in which he was riding plunged off George Washington Parkway and into the Potomac River. A woman driving the car escaped with minor injuries.
Dowd's Justice Department strike force began investigating that incident in July, 1975, after U.S. Park Police officials termed the death "very unusual." Baumgart was a lobbyist for the American Bankers Association and a former aide to Rep. Peter W. Rodino Jr.(D-N.J.)
Ten days before Baumgart's death he was forced by two men in separate cars to stop his own car on the same stretch of parkway where he later died. One man smashed windows on Baumgart's car in the first incident.