Florida Union Boss Resigns, Receives Big Pay Day

Amid an embarrassing audit for the South Florida union, Broward president Pat Santeramo was set to meet with nine members of the Broward Teachers Union executive board seeking his removal. Santeramo had previously ignored demands that he resign while state investigators scour the affiliate’s books, writes Kenric Ward at The Sunshine State News.

The American Federation of Teachers brought the auditors in at the request of Florida Education Association president Andy Ford. So far they have found:

  • BTU overestimated dues revenue by $1.2 million this year. The union counted on 13,725 full-time equivalent members, but had only 11,654.
  • Santeramo, who has been president of the Broward Teachers Union for 10 years, had accumulated 230 vacation days and 122 sick leave days as of June 30 — an accrued amount valued at $255,021.
  • Auditors determined that Santeramo’s salary was $189,000, plus $900 a month for expenses and use of an American Express credit card.
  • So far the auditors have found that “the record keeping at BTU is poor, so it is possible that the [union] officers did not realize they were being overpaid.

Jaryn Emhof, spokeswoman for former Gov. Jeb Bush’s education advocacy group, Foundation for Florida’s Future, said:

“As a nonprofit we are held to standards of accountability. It is surprising that the unions are not held to a similar standard… Union leaders should be held accountable for the use of their members’ hard-earned dues.”

Before the hearing could go ahead Santeramo resigned, reportedly walking off with $255,020 in accrued sick leave and vacation pay. AFT Administrator John Tarka immediately canceled the meeting, which was expected to draw about 200 interested BTU members, writes Mike Antonucci at EIA Online.

AFT and BTU were said to be dreading the hearing, and as summarized by  Sun-Sentinel reporter Cara Fitzpatrick:

“You can bet the union will have a hard time policing that many people’s cell phones and video cameras.”

Antonucci points out that Santeramo’s resignation won’t take effect until the end of the month, in what seems to be the standard for AFT’s administratorship practice. To rub it in, it almost seems in line with practice that  most of Santeramo’s 2011-12 salary was paid up front, which means that money has already been lost.

Antonucci:

“To sum up, the new devotion to transparency resulted in a resignation deal negotiated behind closed doors without member input, a vow of no additional comment, a canceled hearing, some sort of payout, and an unexplained three-week extension of Santeramo’s tenure. The sound you hear is the AFT lid being slammed on the whole situation.”