On the heels of a scandal involving the misappropriation of more than $5 million by officials of the Washington, DC Teachers Union (WTU), another scandal has been uncovered involving the fraudulent conversion of almost $3.5 million in union funds for the personal use of former United Teachers of Dade (UTD) president Pat Tornillo.
In late August, Tornillo resigned his long-time position with UTD and pled guilty to stealing union funds, promising to pay back $640,000 while facing tax charges and penalties of about $400,000, and up to 30 months in prison. A forensic audit conducted by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) detailed how $3,356,744 of UTD funds was “either misappropriated, diverted, and/or used for the personal benefit of Mr. Pat L. Tornillo, Jr., Mr. Murray Sisselman, Elizabeth Du Fresne and other individuals.”
While not reading “like the manifest of a pirate ship”–which is how one reporter described a listing of the expensive clothing, silver, artwork, and electronics items purchased by WTU officials–the forensic audit suggests Tornillo and his colleagues used teacher union dues to lead the kind of carefree, luxurious lifestyle the UTD teachers who furnished those dues can only dream about:
- travel, often involving cruises, to Russia, China, the Orient, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, St. Barts, and Paris;
- use of paid UTD staff to carry out household tasks and duties at the Tornillo residence, and for a personal assistant to Tornillo’s wife;
- personal expenditures of $677,793 charged to UTD credit cards and not reimbursed, including $71,430 to Seabourn Cruise Lines to Southeast Asia, and $20,056 to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami;
- payment of all Tornillo’s household utilities, insurance, and services, including gas, water, electricity, cable television, telephone, gardener, appliance maintenance plan, pool maintenance, and exterminator.
As well as seeking restitution of the misappropriated funds, the AFT has instituted a number of reforms aimed at restructuring UTD in a way that would allow it to repay all outstanding debt.
… And Another
In September, auditors from the American Federation of Teachers were called in to examine the books of the New Hampshire Federation of Teachers (NHFT), according to Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency. Three top elected NHFT officials had resigned earlier in the month, apparently over questions regarding “improprieties” in the spending of funds from a labor-management grant from the U.S. Department of Labor that partnered the union with a local school district.
… And Another
Antonucci also reports that the Lamoille Union High School District in Vermont placed teacher Wayne Nadeau on paid leave in September, pending a final school board decision on his employment.
At the National Education Association’s (NEA) national convention in July, Nadeau was elected to a six-year term on the teacher union’s Executive Committee, securing votes from more than 4,700 delegates, who apparently were unaware Nadeau’s teaching license had been suspended for 20 working days earlier this year for having sex with a teacher’s aide in his classroom.
When Nadeau’s admitted involvement in the incident was revealed in Vermont newspapers shortly after the convention, the teacher union initially supported him. For example, NEA spokesperson Kathleen Lyons pointed out Nadeau had been disciplined and that “Having an affair is not a disqualification.” But, under pressure, Nadeau resigned from the NEA Executive Committee in late July.
George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News. His email address is [email protected].
For more information …
The September 3, 2003 forensic audit of the financial records of the United Teachers of Dade, prepared for the American Federation of Teachers, is available online at the Miami union’s Web site at http://www.utd.org/Forensic_Examination_Report.htm.
The December 18, 2002 FBI affidavit regarding the Washington Teachers Union, listing the merchandise alleged to have been purchased with teacher union funds, is available on the Web site of DC Watch at http://www.dcwatch.com/schools/ps021218.htm.
Mike Antonucci’s informative weekly Communiqué, detailing teacher union activities in communities across the nation, is available via email from the Education Intelligence Agency at http://www.eiaonline.com.