Thomas Renkes didn’t head the Alaska Nurses Association for very long. But he used that time to siphon funds from the labor organization to pay for personal expenses. In late April, Renkes agreed to plead guilty in federal court to embezzling more than $22,000 from the Anchorage-based union, which represents nearly 1,000 nurses at various hospitals. He is scheduled for a plea hearing on June 3 and faces up to five years in prison.
A nurse since 1983, Renkes had run several health care-related businesses before becoming executive director of the Alaska Nurses Association. While he served only ten months – from October 2007 to August 2008 – prosecutors say that was enough time for him to steal around $22,500 through unauthorized purchases with his union credit card. Among the more than 80 such transactions were legal bills and family plane tickets. He also allegedly provided misleading or false justifications for these expenditures. Renkes previously headed nurses associations in Michigan and Illinois. He’s not likely to repeat the experience in another state.