Raymond Donovan, 90, Dies; Labor Secretary Quit Under a Cloud

Raymond J. Donovan, who resigned as labor secretary within the Reagan administration whereas dealing with felony costs of getting earlier schemed to defraud New York City of thousands and thousands of dollars when he was a New Jersey development firm govt — costs of which he was acquitted by a jury — died on Wednesday at his residence in New Vernon, N.J. He was 90.

A New Jersey funeral residence, Gallaway & Crane in Basking Ridge, stated the trigger was congestive coronary heart failure.

The fraud costs have been in an indictment that the Bronx district legal professional obtained in 1984 in one in all two felony investigations that buffeted Mr. Donovan’s tenure as labor secretary, from February 1981 to March 1985.

The different investigation was by a federal particular prosecutor who pursued allegations that Mr. Donovan — additionally earlier than he joined the federal government — had had connections with organized crime figures and had witnessed an unlawful payoff to a union chief. That investigation ended with out costs being introduced.

Mr. Donovan denied wrongdoing throughout each investigations, calling himself a sufferer of “baseless allegations” and “vicious attacks.” He traced the accusations within the indictment to folks he referred to as mendacity informers and stated the Bronx district legal professional, a Democrat, had been politically motivated to hunt a high-profile Republican scalp.

Nevertheless, he resigned from the federal government 5 months after he was indicted when a decide refused to dismiss the costs. After he was acquitted, in a extensively quoted comment, he stated, “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”

Mr. Donovan’s authorized battles have been only one line of competition that dominated his time as labor secretary. Another was his antagonistic relations with high leaders of organized labor.


Mr. Donovan, proper, spoke with Senator Bob Dole of Kansas in 1983. As labor secretary, Mr. Donovan sought to calm down labor laws imposed on companies.Credit…Scott Stewart/Associated Press

Mr. Donovan’s actions as secretary mirrored President Ronald Reagan’s ardent advocacy of free enterprise unfettered by authorities regulation. The union leaders noticed them because the business-favoring strikes of a hard-right Republican administration looking for to reverse labor’s hard-won beneficial properties.

The earlier Democratic administration of Jimmy Carter had enacted or proposed laws strengthening a variety of employment requirements, together with these on occupational security and well being. Mr. Donovan withdrew or suspended them.

At the identical time, he sought to reverse decades-old legal guidelines prohibiting staff in a number of industries, just like the knitted outerwear enterprise, from working at residence, and to develop the kinds of jobs and hours that 14- and 15-year-olds may legally work.

Labor leaders stated such steps would foster violations of minimal wage, baby labor and different legal guidelines. Mr. Donovan countered, “We are not cutting out any health and safety requirements meaningful to the protections of workers.” Rather, he stated, the Labor Department was “changing the approach” to labor apply, scrapping what he referred to as a regulatory “police state mentality” that had prevented some America industries from being aggressive with their international counterparts.

Mr. Donovan, nevertheless, didn’t play a central decision-making position within the Reagan administration’s largest labor confrontation — over an unlawful strike in 1981 by many of the nation’s air site visitors controllers, for which the president fired them. The Transportation Department, not the Labor Department, took the lead on the federal government aspect as a result of the controllers labored for the Federal Aviation Administration, a part of the transportation company.

Mr. Donovan, who had grown rich within the development trade earlier than becoming a member of the administration, held that his youth struggles and his working profession had given him perception, he stated, into “what workers’ needs are and what motivates them.”

Raymond James Donovan was born on Aug. 31, 1930, within the St. Andrew’s part of Bayonne, N.J., the seventh of 12 youngsters of David and Eleanor Donovan. Both dad and mom died by the point he was 18, leaving the older youngsters to boost the youthful ones.

Ray attended St. Andrew’s School and St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, then went on to check at Holy Trinity Seminary in Alabama and the Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, graduating in 1952. But as a substitute of going into the Roman Catholic priesthood, as he had thought-about, he returned to Bayonne. “It was my turn to take care of the younger ones,” he stated in a 1980 interview with The New York Times.

Mr. Donovan was a member of the electrical staff union and likewise labored within the insurance coverage enterprise till 1959, when he joined the Schiavone Construction Company, then a small, three-year-old New Jersey concern. Becoming govt vice chairman in 1971 — a place during which he oversaw labor relations and negotiated with the unions — he helped develop Schiavone into a main heavy-construction firm. He and the founder, Ronald A. Schiavone, owned 90 % of its inventory.

Mr. Donovan married Catherine Sblendorio in 1957. She survives him, together with their daughter, Mary Ellen Stewart; two sons, Ken and Keith; 9 grandchildren; a great-grandson; and two of his siblings.

A Democrat early on, Mr. Donovan stated he turned a Republican when he discovered himself extra in tune with its ideas. Reagan nominated him for labor secretary after Mr. Donovan had been a main fund-raiser and a New Jersey marketing campaign chief for him within the 1980 presidential election.

His affirmation listening to within the Senate was rocky. It unearthed allegations by underworld informers that Mr. Donovan and his firm had been concerned in payoffs to union extortionists to acquire labor peace, and that they’d engaged in each enterprise and social actions with organized crime figures. The F.B.I. stated it couldn’t corroborate the allegations, and the Senate permitted the nomination in February 1981.

But the next December, a particular prosecutor was appointed to take a new take a look at Mr. Donovan’s development firm actions after an allegation surfaced that had not been handed on to the Senate on the time of the listening to.

The accusation was by an informer who stated that he was with Mr. Donovan and different Schiavone firm officers at a Queens restaurant in 1977 when one of many officers handed an envelope containing $2,000 to the president of a native development union. Mr. Donovan responded that not solely had he not witnessed any payoff, however that he had additionally by no means in his life been in that restaurant.

After a six-month investigation — which additionally re-examined the previous allegations of Donovan ties to crime figures — the particular prosecutor, Leon Silverman, stated he had discovered no corroborating proof of the payoff or of the lunch. Overall, he stated, “there was insufficient credible evidence to warrant prosecution of Secretary Donovan on any charge.”

Two months later, after reopening the investigation to have a look at nonetheless different allegations of previous connections with crime figures, Mr. Silverman issued the identical discovering.

Mr. Donovan stated that he felt vindicated however that he would have been far happier if Mr. Silverman had couched his findings in phrases extra constructive for Mr. Donovan than “insufficient credible evidence.” The phrase “boils my blood,” he stated.

The Bronx indictment was introduced in October 1984 — the primary ever of an incumbent presidential cupboard member, a Library of Congress researcher stated on the time. It accused Mr. Donovan and 9 different males — officers of his firm and of a subcontracting firm — of scheming within the 1970s to steal $7.four million from the New York City Transit Authority via fraudulent transactions in a undertaking during which Schiavone was establishing a subway tunnel.

Denying political motivations, the Bronx district legal professional, Mario Merola, stated his workplace had come across the purported scheme whereas conducting one other investigation.

In May 1987, Mr. Donovan and 7 different males have been acquitted of all costs by a jury that had deliberated barely 10 hours after an eight-month trial. Several jurors stated they’d discovered the proof sorely missing and stated the indictment mustn’t have been introduced.

Mr. Donovan later served as president of Schiavone till the corporate was offered in 2007.