Fla. School Bus Drivers Charge Natl. Union Bosses with Ignoring Financial Wrongdoing

Dissident bus drivers in the Tallahassee, Fla. area, are looking at an auditor’s suspicion of fraud in their union as evidence of mismanagement and unaccountability in the state and national union hierarchies benefiting from their dues payments.

Members of the Collier [County] Support Personnel Union accused local officials of mismanaging more than $25,000 in October.  That figure has now grown to $36,000.  They also accused the three organizations that pocket 78 percent of their dues — the Natl. Education Assn. (NEA), the Fla. Education Assn. (FEA) and the Amer. Fedtn. of Teachers (AFT) — of ignoring their complaints for more than a year.  In January, several members, led by Richard Arena, were elected as shop stewards and began their own inquiry.  Among other problems, they noticed numerous ATM transactions involving hotels and other businesses in which the institution’s name was written in ink on the carbon.

Then, in March, auditor Tina King of Kelley, King and Associates, informed local officials of her suspicions of fraud.  Initially, FEA officials claimed they had passed on King’s March 18 letter to the State Attorney’s office.  After that office denied having received the report, an attorney for the union’s officers claimed they were gathering records to transfer to the state’s economic crimes unit.

With the NEA, FEA and AFT getting $95,000 a year from the bus drivers and other support personnel, shop steward Pete Cullen accused state and national officials of using the Collier union as “a cash cow.” [Naples Daily News 4/5/03]