By Benjamin Gaul
Last week, Pat Santeramo, the former president of the Broward Teachers Union, was arrested and charged with 20 felonies, including racketeering, grand theft, money laundering and fraud.
Teachers are getting their pockets picked – legally and illegally – by the very people who are supposed to be representing them. Teacher unions don’t perform any functions that actually serve children, so if they’re not even serving the best interests of their members, why do we have teacher unions at all?
David Esposito, the head of Marstan Construction, told investigators as part of a plea deal that he routinely overcharged the Broward Teachers Union for work his company performed anywhere from $1,000.00 to $20,000.00. And the extra money always ending up in Santeramo’s bank accounts. In exchange for giving Santeramo the kickbacks, Esposito was being paid to perform a variety of dubious services.
Esposito’s company was hired 18 times to change light bulbs, 15 times to kill weeds, 14 times to kill ants, six times to replace flags, four times to clean the union’s parking lot and three times to clean the union’s dumpster — among other things — from 2006 to early 2011. Over the course of five-and-a-half years, Santeramo received $173,500 alone just in kickbacks from Marstan Construction.
Interestingly enough, the amount of cash being disbursed from union funds for such mundane tasks never lifted anyone’s eyebrows. One does NOT question their union president about such things.
The kickbacks to Santeramo began with the renovation of the BTU building in early 2000. There’s no telling how much union cash Santeramo has collected all told, but he purchased a $574,000 vacation home in November 2007 with $274,000 down. He then managed to pay off the entire mortgage in three years.
Santeramo is also accused of using BTU funds to reimburse himself and other union leaders for personal donations made to the Florida Education Association’s political action committee, a body which regularly and routinely supports State and Local Democrat campaigns. One union leader is quoted as saying “everyone was aware that they would be reimbursed, otherwise no one would have contributed.”
Which leads investigators to believe that the corruption in BTU headquarters may extend far beyond just Santeramo.
The BTU snafu is coming to light at the exact same time we’re learning that both presidents of the nation’s two largest teacher unions are taking home salaries and benefit packages of nearly $500,000 annually.
Apparently, teachers are beginning to ask the question I posited in the beginning of this article. “Why do we have teacher unions at all?” Which explains why union membership is receding all across the nation.
Teacher union apologists argue that these organizations serve an important role as advocates for public education. Even if you buy into that argument, it’s painfully obvious that what might have began as a valid movement has become a business that is rapidly degenerating into a racket.
Do YOU still support Teacher’s Unions?