The federal investigation into allegations of labor-management racketeering encompasses the two top former Teamster union officials of Baltimore and Washington and their relationship with a Washington-area construction conglomerate.
According to sources and judging from records subpoenaed by the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore, this is a major investigation into how the construction world operates; how workers are hired for multimillion dollar contracts for the Washington beltway, and Baltimore-area highways; how top union officials control union and nonunion employment and whether these officials received favors for ensuring cheap and dependable work.
Attorneys representing the unions and some of the figures under scrutiny confirmed yesterday that in both Baltimore and Washington federal investigators have subpoenaed records of Frank DeBrouse, former president of Washington Teamsters Local 639, and Leo D'Alesio, former excutive officer of Baltimore's Teamsters Local 311.
In the work of these men and in the work of a road building firm called Excavation Construction Inc., which is prominent in the investigation, the name of Robert Lee Miller Jr., cropped up regularly.
Miller, who owned a bridge building company, appears to have touched all sides of this tricornered relationship: He had business associations with DeBrouse and D'Alesio in Washington and Baltimore and a working relationship with Excavation Construction Inc., for whom he often did subcontracting. He had also been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors in connection with their investigation.
Miller was fatally shot Tuesday night in a Rockville motel room by an assailant who left untouched some $1,900 in cash Miller had with him.
Top union officials alleged that Miller's close friendship with D'Alesio and DeBrouse was useful for his firm, Interstate Bridge Co. Inc. Miller, who did not employ union labor, depended on the two union officials, these sources said, to keep wages down without incurring the wrath of organized labor.
During the last five years, when unemployment has seriously plagued both Baltimore and Washington, construction jobs have been sought by many men and control over those posituation was crucial:
Together, Excavation Construction Inc. and Interstate Bridge Co. Inc. won through competitive bidding tens of millions of dollars worth of contracts for construction of the Virginia extension of the Washington Beltway, Washington Metro stations, dredging the harbor at Baltimore's Dundalk Marine Terminal and construction of Baltimore area highways and terminals.
The probe also touches on the management of both unions' health and welfare and pension funds, an issue now being contested in Baltimore's U.S. District Court by two Baltimore Teamsters who are suing D'Alesio, their Local 311, their funds and their funds' administrator Alfred Bell.
In the civil suit filed by the two Teamsters, Alfred Bell is questioned for the fees he received from both the unions and the insurance companies while handling the pension and the health and welfare funds.
Bell administered these funds for both the Washington local and the Baltimore local.
Bell and his company received money in a "multiple services" manner, which means he brokered the insurance for National Casualy and was paid a commission for that. At the same time, the union paid him to administer and care for the funds. In one year those fees added up to about $300,000.
Pual Levy, attorney for the two Teamsters, said yesterday that they have yet to receive a trial date to hear the suit to recover some $200,000 in severance funds allocated to D'Alesio and to alter the funds' makeup because D'Alesio has refused to hand over his records pending the grand jury investigations.
Albert J. Ahern, Jr. attorney for DeBrouse, said yesterday that his client is innocent of all alleged wrong-doing described in reports of the investigation. He said DeBrouse's records were subpoenaed "some months ago" and he described the investigation into welfare and pension funds as "coming to zero."
One of the focuses of the investigation is the alleged favors DeBrouse received from John Lyon, president of Excavation Construction Inc. Ahern said yesterday that the plush Davidsonville home constructed by a Lyon firm for DeBrouse will soon be subject of yet another suit.
Ahern said the suit will contain Lyon's claim that DeBrouse owes him a great deal of money for the home built in 1973.
"What really is unfair about these affairs is that it is all over a dispute about how much is owed on the house." said Ahern, who said he did not know where the suit will be filed.
Ahern also claimed the federal investigation was done at the "bidding of Daniel George," the man who defeated DeBrouse last year in election to the top position at Teamsters Local 639.
George then campaigned against DeBrouse charging that the former president signed "sweetheart" contracts with management, particularly Excavation Construction Inc. A 1974 contract DeBrouse signed with the Lyon firm provided hourly wages $2.50 less than prevailing union scale. When 21 Teamsters workers on the job complained about the contract, they were fired, according to Teamsters Local 639 officials.
Local 639 is the "catch all" Teamsters unit in Washington, the only one that does not represent drivers for specific firms such as those who deliver bread and milk or gas tank truckers.
The local is headquartered in downtown Washington, separated from the other locals which share a building in Northeast with the Teamster Joint Council.
With this blanket representation, Local 639 can negotiate labor contracts for jobs in the lucrative construction business.