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Suspicion Hovers Over New And Never-Vetted NRLB Member

One of President Obama’s contested recess appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is facing a lawsuit where he and several others have been accused of violating the law written to prosecute mobsters.

Although Richard Griffin became a member of the NLRB over a year ago, the President’s decision to appoint him without the constitutionally-required advice and consent of the Senate means that we may never be able to fully vet his record.

Lachlan Markay, writing for the Washington Free Beacon, reports that Griffin, the former general counsel to the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), has been named in a civil lawsuit that invokes the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and the Labor Management and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) to claim that union leadership helped perpetrate a cover up by threatening and firing union members who were investigating embezzlement in a union local.

The union member plaintiffs allege that another member of IUOE Local 501 in California was embezzling union funds by improperly spending the money on “expensive lunches with his mistress” and other unauthorized expenses. The business manager investigated, and after an independent audit, ordered that the accused repay $4,000. But the general president of the union, Vince Giblin, ordered the business manager to end the investigation. Giblin then threatened to put Local 501 under the control of the international union unless the business manager and his associates resigned.

The complaint alleges that Griffin, in his role as counsel to the international union, relayed this and other threats against the Local 501 investigators on behalf of Giblin.

This isn’t the first time that Griffin’s association with the IUOE has been in the headlines. A year ago, Griffin’s financial disclosures indicated that he would continue to receive pension payments from the IUOE while he serves as a member of the NLRB and decides cases that affect federal labor law.

Although Griffin hasn’t been found guilty of anything — he’s only been named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit — the dispute has been long-running and ongoing, even though the lawsuit was only served on Griffin in December. But since Griffin is a presidential appointee, shouldn’t we have heard about it sooner?

Information is trickling out, in fits and starts, because Griffin was a “recess” appointment to the NLRB who faced no scrutiny.

While Congress was still in session in early 2012, President Obama appointed Griffin, along with Sharon Block and Terence Flynn, to the NLRB. Unlike President Obama’s claims to the contrary, Senate Republicans had not “stalled” Griffin’s or Block’s appointments. The pair was only tapped as nominees to the NLRB on December 14, 2011. Obama “appointed” them on January 4, 2012. The process from nomination to appointment was so quick that the tech-savvy White House wasn’t even able to post their nominations on its website before they allegedly took office.

Legal scholars, including Former Attorney General Ed Meese, have criticized Obama’s appointments, and there are several pending cases challenging their validity. In the meantime, expect to hear no more than dribs and drabs about Griffin’s history and his fitness to serve as an NLRB member. Parties before the Board deserve better than that. President Obama refused to let the Senate look into Griffin’s record, and we are slowly finding out why. The President favored political expediency over the constitutional process, and this is the result.

Categories: Center for Union FactsCrime & CorruptionNLRB