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September 4, 2012

1)  Follow the Journey with Bernie? The American Federation of Teachers administratorship over the Broward Teachers Union is approaching its end. The last major detail to be taken care of is the election of new local union officers, including the president. Whoever wins will benefit from grading on the curve. The previous president, Pat Santeramo, is the cause of the administratorship, after his alleged racketeering and embezzlement of union funds. His predecessor, Tony Gentile, served jail time for attempting to entice a minor into a sex act. After those two, any candidate would look clean by comparison.

It seems as though that theory will be put to the test. Four candidates are running for BTU's top office, including the incumbent vice president, Bernie Schultz. You may recall that Schultz was the first to plead to receiving reimbursement out of union dues for a political campaign contribution she made. She is currently on probation for that offense. In her campaign statement to BTU members, Schultz touts her experience: "In this period of transition, we need someone with the experience to continue moving the BTU forward. I am that person. It is time for us to come together and unify our efforts. Follow the Journey with Bernie."

Schultz has not been implicated in Santeramo's alleged crimes, but the union's own documents note that BTU records "have been subpoenaed pursuant to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor. The investigation appears to be of one or more officers or former officers of the union related to expenditures." Schultz and other members of the board and staff don't have to be criminals to have been negligent with the union's money. Just as was the case with the United Teachers of Dade during the Tornillo scandal, the union president's misappropriations were only partly responsible for the overall financial shortfall.

BTU had $357,000 in liabilities in 2007-08. By the time Santeramo was arrested, the union held $2.4 million in assets and $2.8 million in liabilities. That's what happens when payrolls and pension costs balloon while revenue is falling.

Santeramo's alleged kickbacks didn't occur in total secrecy either. BTU's accountant, Richard M. Kagan, produced a financial statement in February 2008 that should have led to action back then. Kagan delivered an income vs. expenditures report for the first six months of fiscal year 2007-08. The union had budgeted $150,000 for "building expenses" for the entire year, and nothing for "building renovations." But in six months, BTU spent $167,663 on the former, and $55,724 on the latter. We now know that during this six-month period, almost $78,000 went to David Esposito of Marstan Construction, who has testified he kicked back $20,000 of that amount to Santeramo.

Perhaps none of this will matter to the BTU members who will vote by mail the last two weeks of this month, but there are at least some signs that there is opposition to business as usual.

One of the candidates for president, Sharon Glickman, is one of the four members of the BTU executive board who blew the whistle on Santeramo to AFT last year. Another, Bryan Caletka, assumed this statement would resonate with voters: "I am also the only candidate that is not a BTU insider. I am not a BTU insider. I am not a BTU insider."

There is another reason to be hopeful. After the fall of Tornillo in Miami, his hand-picked successor, Shirley Johnson, ran for president after the AFT administratorship expired. She was defeated by a margin of 52%-48%. She later filed election fraud complaints, but her appeals were denied (see item #3 in the December 20, 2004 EIA Communiqué).

2)  Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from August 28-September 4:

*  Ryan Now a Running Joke. It is possible to make an honest mistake about what your marathon time was 20 years ago. But not by an hour, and not if it was your only one.

Paul Ryan Marathon Kerfuffle: Beware the Lesson of Nathan Noy. Ryan was caught, but it's always best to be sure of your facts before making accusations.

Ossify Wall Street. Dissipation into anarchy... literally.

Temporary Insanity. When is a tax hike not a tax hike?

AFT Drops Anchor in Mystic. Short-lived challenge.

Labor Day Toils. Hard worker.

3)  Quote of the Week. "When voters instituted changes (for current employees) in San Diego, the unions didn't really fight the campaign. They saved money for lawyers." - Michael Shires, political scientist at Pepperdine University, describing what is likely to happen to California Gov. Jerry Brown's public pension reform bill. (August 29 Sacramento Bee)

   

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