The fallout from the Broward Teachers Union financial scandal continues to trickle into the legal system. Two BTU elected officers and two employees have already been cited for accepting reimbursement out of dues money for political campaign contributions during the tenure of former president Pat Santeramo. The union admits this practice took place, and the plea deals reached thus far have offered probation as the sentence for the misdemeanor offense. The official union account of how the violations were discovered is included in a February report by the AFT-appointed administrator, John Tarka:
In the course of its review, AFT investigators became aware of allegations of improper BTU political contributions to candidates or political committees. President Weingarten was advised of the allegations late in the day on October 6. The next day, October 7, President Weingarten contacted Mr. Santeramo about the allegations and instructed him to immediately take steps to correct the situation and fully comply with applicable election law. Those steps included directing individuals who made contributions to immediately return their reimbursements to the BTU. President Weingarten also instructed the AFT general counsel and general manager to follow up to make sure the local was beginning the necessary corrective actions.
So the AFT leadership learned of violations committed by officials of its Broward local and acted swiftly and decisively to correct them. Except it wasn’t just Broward officials who committed the violations.
Leonard Lee, deputy director of AFT’s southeast region, plead guilty to the same misdemeanor count of campaign contribution violations and received probation. Not only was Lee closely involved with BTU during Santeramo’s regime, he is still involved during Tarka’s administratorship. Lee is overseeing BTU’s organizing plan, which includes “running issues-based political and legislative workplace campaigns.”
Lee’s violation is unlike the others in that he is the only one (so far) who accepted reimbursement from BTU even though he doesn’t work for BTU. The others could reasonably claim they didn’t know it was illegal, but how could Lee?