03.22.2013 1

Current Obama appointee to NLRB faces civil RICO lawsuit over union embezzlement

National Labor Relations BoardBy Rick Manning Richard Griffin, Jr. has had a rough 2012, and 2013 doesn’t look much better.

For Griffin, 2012 started brightly as he was given a recess appointment to the National Labor Relations Board and was sworn in as a Board Member on January 9, 2012.

Now, just a little more than a year later, he is fighting for his political life.

His appointment has been invalidated by the U.S. District Court of Appeals which ruled it to be illegal due to the President’s failure to follow the constitutional requirement that the U.S. Senate confirm his appointments to bodies like the NLRB.

The Senate confirmation process is designed to determine if appointees might have skeletons in their closet or other reasons that make them unfit to serve.  By short-circuiting it, Obama effectively tried to tell the American people to simply trust him that the people he was appointing met the highest ethical standards.

In the case of Griffin, it is likely that the background check and vetting process a nominee has to undergo when they face Senate confirmation would have revealed a brewing embezzlement scandal involving the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 501.  Internal local union investigations revealed that a union official allegedly embezzled money to pay for breast implants for his mistress among other seedy items.

Griffin, who served as the General Counsel for the IUOE in D.C., is alleged to have engaged in threatening activity toward the local union local officials who investigated the embezzlement and alleged embezzler reimburse the union. Unfortunately, for those local officials, the embezzler had an extremely powerful friend in IUOE General President Vince Giblin – Griffin’s boss.  Griffin landed in hot water when serving as Giblin’s mouthpiece, he demanded that not only the matter be dropped but that those pushing for the embezzlers punishment leave their jobs with the local union.

That handling of the scandal has put Griffin front and center as a key named defendant in a civil Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) civil suit.

Americans for Limited Government General Counsel Nathan Mehrens was an attorney at the U.S. Department of Labor who helped develop union transparency rules that were functionally overturned as soon as Obama took office notes, “if the transparency rules for union trusts that were originally put in place in 2003 had been allowed to stand, it is highly likely that local union members would have seen this embezzlement openly reported and there would never have been an attempt to sweep it under the rug by the International.  Now Richard Griffin, who fought and won the battle to hide how union trusts spend their members money from the media, watchdog groups and their own membership is paying the price for that ‘success’.”

As evidence of Griffin’s transparency opposition, the IOUE produced an eleven page, single spaced comment that was produced by IOUE under Griffin’s legal leadership opposing transparency regulation largely because it was unnecessary, too costly and inconvenient.

Of course in retrospect, one wonders if Mr. Griffin would now prefer that the billions of dollars of labor union trusts had been subjected to a transparent reporting system that likely would have caught or prevented the IOUE local embezzlement rather than facing a RICO suit that imperils his NLRB Board membership dream.

In spite of all of the controversy surrounding his nomination, Obama, in the face of the federal court invalidating his initial NLRB appointments has re-nominated Griffin, while the case declaring his original appointment invalid is appealed to the Supreme Court.

And as Griffin faces a Senate confirmation background check and grilling, he will undoubtedly face difficult questions, not only on the hundreds of cases he ruled on that will likely be overturned due to the Court ruling, but on the RICO lawsuit itself.

Mehrens notes the irony that, “someone who fought tooth and nail against transparency is now in jeopardy of losing any chance of legitimately serving on the NLRB largely due to his success in suppressing that public disclosure.”

Sometimes in Washington, D.C., you do get what you deserve.

Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is the Vice President of Public Policy and Communications at Americans for Limited Government.

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