Former American Airlines flight attendants union head Bob Ross has been barred from serving in any leadership position of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants for life by an arbitrator for misappropriating member dues. Ross was President of the union from April 2016 until March 2018.
The detail in the complaint and arbitration decision are shockingly egregious (.pdf). The allegations included that he,
- put $3600 of personal furniture on the union credit card, and even charged “thousands” on personal items like bedding and toilet paper.
- billed $6200 for a rental car to the union while living near union headquarters and not entitled to a car.
- claimed mileage reimbursement even while the union was paying for his rental car.
- charged “thousands of dollars of unauthorized meals to his APFA credit card” and “thousands for maintaining an office he was not entitled to.”
It appears that Ross’ defense to using the credit card for personal purchases was (1) that the expenses were approved (effectively, by his subordinates in the union) and (2) that the people complaining didn’t audit the credit card charges of other past union presidents (in effect, I suppose, ‘everybody does it’).
Receipts were submitted for each credit card charge and reviewed per policy by the appropriate accounting and legal departments. Plaintiff admitted they did not review any other administrations union credit card charges for similar purchases or past practice or for expenses when said officers relocated to DFW.
And he says that no one can prove the mileage reimbursements he took were for the rental car he had, as opposed to for driving his personal car and that the policy the union had on meal reimbursements was unclear (“APFA also had no policy in place until 2021, for a National Officer in relation to one’s union credit card practice” so more or less anything goes though it seems like this position would entail problems with the IRS).
The arbitrator’s findings are damning. For instance,
It appears APFA paid for Ross’s family vacation in the Grand Canyon with Defendant Ross’ APFA credit card. The cost of this vacation to include meals and hotels should be borne by Defendant Ross. This is an abuse of Ross’s fiduciary duty to the APFA membership. This is a per se violation of the Policy Manual.
The arbitrator found that he took mileage reimbursement and gas reimbursement on the same day, paid for personal meals with his union credit card on the same day he also too meal per diems, and that the rental car – paid to be upgraded to the luxury category – was against union bylaws. And the arbitrator found that when Ross moved to Dallas to become union President he both took a moving allowance (to move into a new home) and had the union lease him an apartment even though he was only entitled to one or the other.
Thus, it is the arbitrator’s Opinion, that Defendant Ross abused his Fiduciary duty to the membership of the APFA and should be assessed the cost of leasing that apartment in the amount of $8,106.13
…The arbitrator finds that throughout this proceeding, Defendant Ross intentionally and willfully ignored the provisions of the APFA Policy Manual and thus, has violated and abused his fiduciary duty entrusted to him by the APFA membership. Ross’s testimony was inconsistent and not forthright. Because Ross abused his position of trust as well as his fiduciary duty to the membership of the APFA, he can no longer hold a position of trust with the APFA.
The union, for its part, promises reforms. Before the pandemic thought it was rife with infighting and then failed to speak up for flight attendants as the company furloughed them during Covid. They’ve had financial challenges and it’s easy to see why.