Steve Conn has been booted out of his position as president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers after being found guilty of misconduct.
This week, the union’s executive board announced that Conn had been removed from the position after a seven-month tenure. Shawn D. Lewis, writing for The Detroit News, reports that a letter to members was posted on the Local 231’s website and described the charges, which had been brought by a small number of members, as having “a serious detrimental effect on the entire membership.”
The board said that because of Conn’s actions, members would be discouraged to participate in the union because of concerns for their safety at meetings and because they would not know if their participation would be welcomed or allowed. They added that Conn did not attend the reconciliation conference aimed at resolving the matter informally.
During a two-day trial last week, Conn did not speak. Therefore, “after much deliberation” the board found Conn guilty.
Conn was found guilty of a laundry list of offenses: illegal cancellation of a meeting, attempts to convene special meetings, and failure to preside over meetings; unauthorized affiliation with By Any Means Necessary; failure to investigate member abuse; failure to address physical assault of members; and a failure to pay per capita dues.
The charge of “conducting a school rally without the approval of 90% of staff was dismissed.
Conn retorted that the process was a sham and that he :
“From the concocted charges to the secret McCarthyite trial in which my accusers were also the judge and jury, to my expulsion from the union — it is clear that membership control of the union and the tactics of Martin Luther King of militant direct action not only scare the hell out of [Gov. Rick] Snyder and [DPS Emergency Manager Darnell] Earley, but the DFT Executive Board as well,” Conn said. “… I started a fight to rebuild this union and I want the members of my union to know I pledge to continue this fight.”
Conn stated that he would seek reinstatement, which could occur with a two-thirds vote of members in attendance at the local’s next regular membership meeting. But this will be a long-shot, according to Keith Johnson, a former DFT president who remains a dues-paying member but is opposed to Conn. He added that this was the first time, of which he was aware, that a president was removed from the union.
Conn’s ouster will mean that Vice President Ivy Bailey will become interim president until an election takes place.
WDIV-TV Detroit reports that Conn was narrowly elected as president in January and has been a controversial activist for years. Another portion of Conn’s statement said:
“On August 12, 2015, I received notice of an inexcusable crime: the Executive Board has attempted a coup, conspiring among themselves to remove me from office and to expel me from the DFT. They have attempted to usurp the democratic authority of the membership,” Conn said. “My declaration to you, the membership of the DFT, is that the Executive Board will not get away with their act of betrayal. I will not yield. I will not allow their clique of bureaucrats to overthrow our union democracy.”
According to CBS Detroit, Johnson stated that Conn was not able to “play by the rules.” He said that the president of the union has to rely on the board in order to take an action that veers away from the norm. But, in his opinion, Conn believed that because he was president, he could do whatever he wanted to do.
Johnson said the evidence and testimony at the trial made it obvious that Conn was in the wrong.