Court affirms ousting of NY-NJ port hiring agent

Court affirms ousting of NY-NJ port hiring agent

A New Jersey appellate court has upheld the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor’s right to revoke the license of a port hiring agent for associating with organized-crime members.

The decision by Superior Court of New Jersey’s appellate division followed a New York state appeals court ruling last year that upheld the revocation of an International Longshoremen’s Association member’s license for associating with mobsters.

In the New Jersey case, Pasquale Pontoriero claimed the commission improperly revoked his license as a hiring agent for terminal operating company Ports America because of contact with convicted waterfront racketeers Tino Fiumara and Stephen DePiro.

The commission said Pontoriero attended a private birthday party for Fiumara, who died in 2010, and twice visited the home of DePiro, who on Dec. 19 pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy for his role in a  extortion of Christmas tribute payments from New Jersey dockworkers.

Pontoriero disputed the commission’s definition of “association” with mobsters, and challenged the commission’s conclusion that the relationships were “inimical” to the commission’s mission to combat waterfront crime.

The appeals court said the Genovese crime family’s control of the waterfront “depends just as much on the perception of influence as it does on actual influence.” The court said the commission did not have to show that Pontoriero’s meetings with the mobsters were for an illegitimate purpose, or that he should have known of their criminal histories.

Walter Arsenault, the commission’s executive director, said that during the last several years, the  commission has revoked the licenses of 12 persons for associating with mob figures. Two of those 12 are awaiting decisions on their appeals.

Efforts to sever organized crime’s links with the New York-New Jersey waterfront are long-standing.

For the last 11 years, the ILA has engaged an independent ethical-practices counsel who has free rein to investigate allegations of wrongdoing and recommend expulsion of members who violate the union’s code of ethics.

The union has accepted the counsel’s recommendations to expel a number of members who have been convicted of crimes, have refused to answer questions, or have associated with mob-related figures on a “prohibited contact” list.

Retired New York State Judge Milton Mollen, who has held the counsel’s post since shortly after it was created, said the no-contact list contains several dozen names. He said the number fluctuates as new persons are added or existing ones die, but that no one ever has been removed from the list for other reasons.

Contact Joseph Bonney at jbonney@joc.com and follow him on Twitter: @JosephBonney.