Sharon Ratcliff had a lot of expenses to cover. Unfortunately, she used her union as a personal bank. On November 14, Ratcliff, formerly secretary-treasurer of Communications Workers of America Local 6150, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas with embezzling more than $75,000 in funds from the Dallas-based union. Six days later, on November 20, she filed a factual resume with the court, effectively pleading guilty. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Under the rules of CWA Local 6150, which represents about 150 area AT&T employees, only three union officials have access to its checkbook and two of them must give signed approval for any payments. Starting in August 2008, Sharon Ratcliff, allegedly in need of money, withdrew it without authorization by rubber-stamping the president’s signature without permission. She used the money to pay household bills and medication, although records indicate some of her purchases went for liquor, a Keurig machine and various souvenir gifts. She disguised the thefts by inflating expenses by writing either phony or duplicate receipts. Eventually, the scheme collapsed. In July 2013, a local audit revealed a pattern of unauthorized expenses. The union turned the report over to the Labor Department, which in turn determined Ratcliff was the culprit. The grand total of embezzlement: $76,525. She agreed to make full restitution.
At her resume filing, Ratcliff admitted she stole union funds, but knew it was wrong. According to the plea agreement, she couldn’t stop “because it was the only way she could pay her bills and medication.” That may be true, but the money came out of the pockets of dues-paying union members, who likewise have expenses. At sentencing, Ratliff faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.