One of the last things Broward public school teachers -- teachers anywhere, really -- need is another reason for lawmakers to think they should dissolve their right to unionize. But that just might be the case if an anonymous (and, honestly, grammatical error-ridden) letter leaked to the media earlier this week is any indication.
It's addressed to the heads of the national and state teachers' unions. A Broward Teachers Union Executive Board member appears to have written it. It notes a "decline within the Broward Teachers Union." The letter claims that BTU President Pat Santeramo has claimed that the union has been financially solvent over the past few years, but now there's a
mysterious gap. The letter claims:
The (2010) Profit & Loss Budget vs. Actual Report demonstrated BTU had a total of $5,338,549 in totally Liabilities & Equity. In our Assets for our Checking/Savings there was $88,203.44. This report was for the time period of July 2009 to March 31, 2010 and was presented to the Executive Board during our May 2010 meeting just one year ago. In less than a year's time we are now being told as an Executive Board that we are over $1.2 million in the hole... It is inexcusable to lose so much money in a year and not hold anyone to account and try not to get some of it back. Some attribute this gaping money hole to declining union membership (indeed, there are about 1,400 fewer teachers in Broward than there were last year). Moreover, now that teachers and district employees have to fork over three percent of their paychecks for their own pensions, they have a little less income to throw around on things that aren't food or shelter.
The anonymous writer thinks union leadership has been mismanaging those funds. The letter goes on to claim that BTU administration lacks checks and balances needed to prevent such a loss, that union credit cards are being misused, and that Santeramo has threatened staff. Long story short, it calls for an audit.
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Santeramo has agreed to it. In a statement, he points out that the letter has no date or signature. "I believe in full disclosure and transparency and expect a complete audit to commence in the coming weeks," he wrote.
If any allegations of wrongdoing turn up true, it would be a tough blow to the one entity advocating for teachers working within a district that has, over the years, gained a reputation for mismanagement and corruption.