Ex-Teacher Union Lawyer Agrees to Pay $340K to Swindled Union

While refusing to admit guilt, the frmr. general counsel of the United Teachers of Dade agreed to pay the union $340,000 after auditors for the union accused her of setting up a slush fund that diverted union funds to her personal accounts.  The Amer. Fedtn. of Teachers (AFT) affiliate announced the settlement on Jan. 22.


According to the audit, released in Dec., then-Gen. Counsel Elizabeth Du Fresne created a corporation called World Wide Learning Corp (WWL).  She diverted payments into WWL from graduate schools paying the union for getting its members enrolled in their institutions.  She then reportedly split the funds between herself and the UTD’s frmr. chieftains, Pat Tornillo and the late Murray Sisselman, identified respectively as a consultant and a director.


The auditing firm of Lewis B. Freeman & Partners Inc. concluded that Du Fresne misappropriated $237,500, while Tornillo and Sisselman each took $255,000, for a total of $747,500.  Du Fresne’s lawyer, Alan Greer, said that his client “vigorously denies any wrongdoing” as UTD gen. counsel.  Greer also claimed that the UTD Bd. of Trustees approved all WWL dealings.  Mark Richard, the AFT-appointed administrator of the UTD, responded, “At no time were the former leaders ever authorized to break the trust of the membership, which is exactly what they [Tornillo, Sisselman and Du Fresne] did.”


Overall, the auditors made a preliminary conclusion that $3.35 million was taken over the last 6 years, mostly by Tornillo, Sisselman and Du Fresne.  A state civil suit by the AFT is pending against Tornillo, who pled guilty last Sept. in fed. ct. to embezzlement and agreed to repay $650,000 to the union.  But acc. to the auditors, Tornillo stole $2.37 million. [Miami Herald, 1/23/04: Forensic Examination Report regarding UTD, Lewis B. Freeman & Partners, http://www.utofd.com/PDF%20Files/Forensic_Examination.pdf]