More Details Emerge on Va. Hierarchy’s Pilfering of Relief Funds

Newly released documents reveal the looting of disaster relief funds in Radford as the tip of an iceberg engulfing the hierarchy of Local 9336 that stretched back six years and nearly swallowed up the union’s funds. And while four of the embezzlers have admitted their guilt in fed. court, a fifth official is a fugitive from the law.

The four who pled guilty on July 12 in Roanoke were: Edward Ramsey, President from 1996-2000: William Fricker, Grievance Cmte. Chair from ‘97-2000, when he became President: Joseph Burress, Financial Secy. from ‘98-2000: and Rhonda Creed, Vice-President from ‘97-2000.  The fifth official charged, Elizabeth George, was Fricker’s campaign manager in 2000, and was appointed Recording Secy. by Fricker when he won. She also joined the relief fund formed in response to an explosion at the Intermet New River Foundry on March 5, 2000.  George did not appear in court, and is considered a fugitive from justice.

At various times from March 1996 to March 2000, acc. to the Indictment, the first four defendants submitted claims to the union for reimbursement of time spent on union business for which they were also paid by the company.  They also claimed reimbursement at the highest hourly wage when in fact they made significantly less. In March ‘99, all four claimed at least 11 full days spent on negotiations, eight of which were also paid by the company.

The four embezzlers drained the union’s checking acct. balance from $28,967 in April 1996, to just $1,740 in March 2000.

President Fricker appointed George to head the disaster relief fund, of which Ramsey, Burress and Fricker were also members, in March 2000. George was recalled to the plant in May, but then went on paid sick leave.  Of the 14 checks and four food certificates totaling $4,186 that George approved for herself, she received all but two of the checks after her recall.  That figure includes payments she approved for her companion, Robert Martin, who was never laid off from the foundry. Fricker received seven relief checks while on paid sick leave, and seven more after returning to work for a total of $3,154. Ramsey was never laid off, yet received four checks and eight food certificates of $1,101. Burress helped himself to $1,276, Creed to $1,239.

The five dipped into the relief fund even as they failed to publicize the fund’s existence, and denied benefits to those of greater need who heard of the fund and applied for relief. Of the $22,500 raised for the relief fund, the defendants stole $10,866. [U.S.A.O. W.D. Va.]