Report: Questionable Spending At Broward Teacher’s Union
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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – CBS4 News is getting a look at a confidential audit report detailing financial irregularities within the Broward Teacher’s Union that have led some members of the Union’s Executive Board to call for the removal of Union President Pat Santeramo.
The report, written by the Union’s parent organization — the American Federation of Teachers — is at the center of allegations against Santeramo that he used union money to make illegal campaign contributions.
The audit details Santeramo’s perks and spending habits. For instance, in the report we learn that Santeramo’s “credit card expenses over the two-year period examined (from 2009-2011) totaled $128,634. The majority of the charges are lacking backup documentation.”
The report adds that “…(Santeramo) is in the process of reviewing in order to provide an explanation and documentation.”
Also detailed are Santeramo’s expense accounts. He receives $600 per month for a car allowance, up to $250 per month for gas and until July 2011 received $300 a month for expenses.
The report details Santeramo’s generous vacation and sick time. The report says he is owed more than $255,000 for 230 unused vacation days and 122 sick days.
Other union employees are given up to 20 days sick time per year to “cash in.” The report reads that “(T)his is a generous benefit in light of the (Union’s) current financial difficulties.”
Also outlined are irregularities like thousands of dollars in checks made out to cash.
“There was no backup to substantiate how these funds were disbursed,” the report reads.
After a Union meeting at Plantation High Wednesday Santeramo refused to answer questions from CBS4′s Carey Codd. The Broward State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Elections Commission are investigating Santeramo. His attorney told CBS 4 News the allegations against Santeramo are false.
Teacher Donna Shubert called the report “heartbreaking” and said the $600 teachers pay per year for Union dues is a lot of money.
“It’s stunning to hear that,” she said. “I hope that (the Union members) have to pay it back if they misused teacher’s hard earned money.”
The Broward Teacher’s Union would not comment on the information contained in the report.
A spokesperson for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) said the report “speaks for itself.” The AFT is sending a financial manager to assist the Union with its’ finances.
The Union’s Executive Board voted Tuesday for an administrator with the American Federation of Teachers to take over day-to-day operations of the Union on an interim basis.
The BTU has confirmed that more than 2 dozen union members were involved in apparent campaign irregularities in the last presidential campaign, related to campaign contributions. Four members of the Executive Board have pointed the finger of blame at Santeramo.
The board members released a letter this week in which that demand was made, after claiming that Santeramo used union finds to reimburse campaign contributions made in the election. The letter cites the results of a recent audit and accuses Santeramo of hiding the payments from the rest of the Union with false and misleading reports.
“The Executive Board must get ahead of Pat’s reprehensible actions before it’s too late, while getting ahead of this situation so that we can tell our members that we took appropriate action on behalf of the BTU. Our members must have the confidence that as their elected Executive Board we will do what is best for the whole and not sacrifice the entire Union for one person, ” the letter said.
The Union said contributions totaling just under $20 thousand were involved and no contributions were made to local races.
Santeramo has been president of the BTU for 10 years.