Former Petrocelli Electric chairman and principal owner Santo Petrocelli Sr. told a judge in federal court in Manhattan that he gave bags of cash to Brian McLaughlin to keep peace with his work force.
McLaughlin, a former state assemblyman and head of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, "asked for it," Petrocelli said.
"He controlled all the labor."
Prosecutors had accused Petrocelli, of Clark, N.J., of paying thousands of dollars in bribes to McLaughlin over several years on projects that included a lucrative contract to maintain public street lights. He also admitted to arranging for McLaughlin to get free use of a company car for two months in 2004.
For years, Petrocelli Electric was New York City's biggest street light contractor, but it was shut out of city work two years ago after the city Department of Investigation and federal officials began investigating corruption and bid-rigging allegations. The company's offices in Queens were raided by the FBI in 2006.
The case "is a red light to any city contractor contemplating doling out payoffs as a way of doing business," DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said in a statement.
Federal prosecutors said they had decided not to pursue separate charges against Petrocelli Electric, saying they wanted to spare "innocent employees and legitimate activities" from any harm. Petrocelli left the company in 2006.
McLaughlin served seven terms in the state Assembly before becoming president of the nation's largest municipal labor council. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison earlier this year after pleading guilty to racketeering charges alleging he secretly skimmed $2.2 million from various sources.
Petrocelli faces up to 12 months in prison when he is sentenced on November 5.