Problem gambling has been the downfall of many union officials and employees in recent years. In the case of Paula Dorsey, at least, it also is the reason for judicial leniency. Dorsey, formerly president of District Council 48 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), was sentenced U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin to three years of probation for embezzling $180,000 from an ASFCME-supported voter education fund. She also was ordered to make restitution. During her guilty plea this past June, she admitted that she stole the money to cover her gambling-related losses. She faced a maximum of five years in prison, with prosecutors calling for an 18-month incarceration.
Union Corruption Update had noted this summer that Dorsey, 59, a longtime employee of the Milwaukee Public Library, had made a series of fraudulent check, debit card and cash withdrawals from AFSCME’s Operation Big Vote account at Associated Bank in Milwaukee. The motive: paying off gambling losses. From sometime in 2004 until May 2009, she had racked up a cumulative loss at gaming venues to the tune of $208,796. Initially denying wrongdoing, Dorsey eventually confessed to her thefts to the District Council 48 executive director. Mitigating her sentence was the fact that she had turned her life around and was speaking to various groups about gambling addiction. At her sentencing, her lawyer, Robin Shellow, presented nearly 80 letters of support, noting that her client had paid back about $9,000.