Key Issues Not Dealt With, Half of Crime Panel Says

Times Staff Writer

Half the members of the President’s Commission on Organized Crime on Tuesday criticized the panel’s work as “a saga of missed opportunity,” alleging that poor management of time, money and staff resulted in a failure to deal with key issues.

In an appraisal attached to the commission’s final report, the nine members said the panel was hampered by unrealistic time deadlines, by resistance to meetings to discuss drafts and by reports issued even before commissioners saw final drafts.

“It will be apparent to anyone who reads the President’s charge to the commission that in some key respects we have fallen short of effective responses,” the panel members said. “These shortcomings are serious.”

Comments Called Responsible


Federal appellate Judge Irving R. Kaufman, the commission’s chairman, took note of the statements in a forward to the final report. “Their commentaries should be responsible, and whether or not I subscribe to their views, each has met that test.”

Kaufman contended that, by focusing public attention on the current state of organized crime and recommending steps toward a national strategy to eradicate it, the commission has “vindicated the confidence President Reagan expressed when he appointed us 32 months ago.”

The commission recommended stepped up actions against money laundering by financial institutions, more vigorous efforts to stem domestic demand for illicit drugs and increased investigations of corrupt unions and businesses that conspire with criminals.

But the nine commissioners said the panel had failed to assess the effectiveness of federal and state efforts to combat organized crime, had not made complete national and regional analyses and had not dealt with the roles of black and Jewish groups involved in such illegal activities.


“Such failures are inexplicable in the face of the scope of the President’s charge and repeated urging by several commissioners,” the panel members said.

Faults ‘Rigid’ Strategy

In a separate statement, commissioner Eugene H. Methvin, a Reader’s Digest senior editor who has specialized in reports on labor racketeering, went further by accusing the commission staff of failing to press the Justice Department about its “rigid and narrow devotion to case-by-case criminal prosecutions to put gangsters behind bars.”

Methvin argued that the department’s organized crime and racketeering section has failed to vigorously use legal weapons that Congress authorized in 1970 legislation, which would allow the department to place corrupt union locals in trusteeship and seek triple damages from union officials who engage in rackets.


The eight other members who criticized the panel were: Jesse Brewer, deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department; Justin J. Dintino, chief of organized crime intelligence for the New Jersey commission of investigation; Philip R. Manuel, a Washington consultant on economic crime; Thomas F. McBride, associate dean of Stanford University Law School; Charles H. Rogovin, a Temple University law professor in Philadelphia; Barbara Ann Rowan, an investigative consultant in Alexandria, Va.; Manuel J. Reyes, chairman of the Hispanic branch of the Miami Organized Crime Commission, and Phyllis T. Wunsche, a Houston Police Department lieutenant.

Deadline Called Unrealistic

However, Brewer and five other commissioners also defended the panel’s work, saying it “is unrealistic for anyone to believe that any commission in just 32 months, and with limited resources, can complete all of the President’s mandates.”

“If we had been provided unlimited resources similar to those currently being provided the Rogers Commission, which is investigating the (space shuttle) Challenger accident, many of these problems would have been alleviated,” those six commissioners said.


Those members, in addition to Brewer, were: Atty. Gen. William J. Guste Jr. of Louisiana; Judith Richards Hope, a Washington lawyer; San Diego Dist. Atty. Edwin L. Miller Jr.; Frances A. Sclafani, chief administrative assistant district attorney in Suffolk County, N.Y., and Samuel K. Skinner, a Chicago lawyer and former U.S. attorney there.

The other three commissioners were Carol A. Corrigan, a senior deputy district attorney in Oakland; Rep. Peter W. Rodino Jr. (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.