John “Buddy” Ruel liked a good time. He’d slap down a credit card to pay for booze, items from an adult toy shop, limousine rides, even an escort service. The only problem was that the credit card wasn’t his. It belonged to the Chicago Ironworkers District Council, a powerful union group that Ruel headed for years.
On Jan. 17, the federal government moved against Ruel for his alleged excesses, charging him with “converting the labor organization’s funds to his own use” over at least seven years by using a union credit card and phone card for his own personal whims. Ruel was president of the district council, the umbrella group for around 7,100 ironworkers and machinery-moving riggers, for more than a decade, until he was voted out and replaced by Danny Aussem in 2001.
Aussem said the finances were awful when he took over. He suspects “a combination” of shoddy management under Ruel, who made six figures, and possible criminal activity. Long-distance calls were placed to towns Ruel’s relatives lived in, and the credit card was used by him to whoop it up in Ireland one year, as well as to pay for liquor, limos and items from the adult toy shop, Aussem said. A union investigation estimates that Ruel diverted about $30,000 of union funds to his personal use.
Ruel has been arrested at least three times for drunken driving, state records show. His driver’s license was stripped from him by the secretary of state’s office when it was determined that he “fraudulently obtained” one under a slightly different name and birthdate, according to the office. [Chicago Sun-Times, 1/18/05: Chicago Tribune, 1/19/05]