Reporting Carey Codd
FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – Broward Teacher’s Union president Pat Santeramo resigned from his position with the BTU and as the vice president of the American Federation of Teachers late Tuesday evening.
Santeramo’s resignation from both positions will be effective December 31, 2011 and he has agreed to not seek union office in the future.
The move comes as Santeramo faces investigations from the Broward State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Elections Commission over alleged illegal campaign contributions made with union money.
The move also comes just one day before Santeramo was scheduled to face an expulsion hearing before the union’s executive board.
“This is an important step in resolving the issues raised by the BTU’s executive board and brought to AFT’s (American Federation of Teachers) attention,” BTU Administrator John Tarka said. “We will continue to implement the recommendations presented in the AFT analysis and to represent all BTU members. Of course, our membership also will continue the outstanding work they do daily with the children and young adults of Broward County.”
Santeramo’s attorney, Mike Moskowitz, told CBS 4 News that no one pressured Santeramo into resigning.
“This was individual soul-searching that it would be better for the health of the union,” Moscowitz said.
Several teachers, including Donna Shubert, said Santeramo did the right thing by resigning. She said he placed a cloud over the union.
“We’ve been attacked from outside — everybody the legislature, the media,” she said. “We have a lot of people attacking teacher’s and teacher’s unions and now we’ve been attacked from the inside. It makes us look terrible.”
Last month, Santeramo was temporarily removed from his position as president amidst the financial audit at the BTU. The union requested that an administrator be appointed from the union’s parent agency, the AFT.
According to the audit, investigators found Santeramo’s union “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.”
Others at the union also had credit cards, like former bookkeeper Arlene Marotta. The report said between 2009-2011 she rang up more than $355,000 in credit card expenses. Investigators found that more than $96,000 of that total had no documentation or proof the expense was related to union business. The report says her credit card was destroyed.
Also detailed are expense accounts for union leaders. Santeramo received $600 per month for a car allowance, up to $250 per month for gas and until July 2011 received $300 a month for expenses.
Teacher Frances Costa said Santeramo’s expense accounts are especially galling, in light of Santeramo’s attacks on former Broward Schools Superintendent Jim Notter. The pair often clashed as Santeramo railed against financial mismanagement at the school district.
“(Santeramo) had us hold up signs protesting Mr. Notter’s $900 car allowance when (Santeramo) was getting a $900 car and expense allowance himself,” Costa told CBS4′s Carey Codd.
Three others at the union received similar monthly expense and auto allowances.
The audit found there were no receipts for the use of Santeramo’s gas card.
All of this spending was occurring despite the union overestimating its’ dues by $1.2 million in 2010, according to the report. The report also says the union needed to take $3.8 million out of its reserves to cover expenses.
For 2011-2012, the union faces a deficit of $350,000.
Union members hope the incident doesn’t destroy morale within the teaching ranks. They also hope that if any funds were misspent, Santeramo pays them back.
“It’s time for (Santeramo) to go and it’s for people that we trust to come in and hopefully that’s what will happen,” Shubert said.