Rick Drain might be going down the drain. Some would call that poetic justice. On March 2, Drain, former business manager of Laborers International Union of North America Local 1085, was charged in an information in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia with embezzling $50,281 in funds from the Parkersburg-based union, which represents several hundred construction and public service employees. The charge follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. There is a story within the story here. For this case has its roots in events of more than a decade ago.
Back in July 2009, an Ohio woman, Debra Ann Pryor, had named LIUNA Local 1085 and Rick Drain as co-defendants in a civil rights suit in Wood County (West Virginia) Circuit Court. Pryor, the local office manager for several years until her dismissal, had claimed she was fired in retaliation for refusing to cover for her boss, Drain, who apparently was stealing union funds. Drain, obviously unable to cite this as his motive for firing her, provided a legitimate-sounding excuse: a need for budget-cutting. Yet Pryor’s suit alleged that she was paid less than union scale. One would think that office budget cuts would start with employees who were paid a lot more (leaving aside the irony of a union paying any of its employees less than union scale). What, then, was Drain’s most likely motive? Actually, there were two. First, Pryor had balked at donating funds to the union campaign for Barack Obama’s presidential run in 2008. Second, she was an avowed Christian whose husband was a former pastor in nearby Marietta, Ohio. In each case, Drain expressed overt and extreme disapproval.
Debra Pryor had sought unspecified damages, compensation for lost wages, court costs and attorney’s fees, and reinstatement of her job. Her effort was unsuccessful. Records show that on August 8, 2012, a state circuit court denied her request for relief. (Wood County Circuit Court, Case Number 09-C-381). If the new federal charge validates her accusations, Rick Drain’s downfall would be as overdue as it would be welcome.