This week the American Federation of Teachers took what it called a “rarely exercised” action by assuming control of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association (OCCTA). Although, by the union’s own account, this has happened four times in the last seven years, which seems fairly frequent to me.
Additionally, AFT officials admit there was no financial impropriety in OCCTA and that Orange County teachers have suffered no harm from the ousted set of representatives. The local union reportedly negotiated one of the highest contract settlements in the state.
Orange County is the fourth largest school district in Florida, and it is interesting to see three more of the five largest districts have all had union dysfunction, ranging from questionable practices all the way up to criminal ones.
1) Miami-Dade – AFT placed an administratorship over the United Teachers of Dade after the Tornillo scandal in 2003, but the problems lingered. In 2006 the secretary-treasurer was summarily fired, and last year UTD was finally able to pay off the millions it owed AFT only through selling real estate and some loan forgiveness.
2) Broward – In 2001, Broward Teachers Union president Tony Gentile pleaded guilty to federal charges of attempting to entice a minor into a sex act and sending child pornography over the Internet. His successor, Pat Santeramo, was forced to resign after being charged with 20 counts of fraud and racketeering. AFT assigned an administrator to the local, who negotiated a quarter-million buyout with Santeramo. Elections since then have not gone smoothly.
3) Palm Beach – In 2012, the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association (PBCCTA) relieved interim executive director Tony Hernandez under mysterious circumstances, replacing him with Lynn Cavall, who had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of filing a false campaign report while she was director of strategic programs for the Broward Teachers Union under Pat Santeramo.
Cavall lasted until November 2014, quitting shortly after Kathi Gundlach was elected local president. Gundlach’s tenure began only after five months of disputed elections, during which the Florida Education Association – rather than AFT – placed an administratorship over the local. Gundlach appointed former PBCCTA president Theo Harris to the post of “interim assistant executive director,” which led to staff picketing because the opening had not been posted for other candidates.
Gundlach insisted Harris’ hiring was temporary, then assigned him the duty of vetting candidates for Cavall’s now-available executive director position. After examining résumés, Harris apparently came to the conclusion he was better qualified than any of them and applied for the position himself. And, sources tell us, getting it – although it seems PBCCTA has made no announcement in that regard.
Oh, and the remaining of five largest Florida locals might be the most unusual of all.