The California School Employees Association (CSEA), an AFL-CIO affiliate, represents over 230,000 bus drivers, janitors, secretaries, cafeteria workers and other public school support staff. As the largest union of its kind in the country, some bad apples inevitably make their way into its more than 750 local chapters. Such is the case in Tracy, a San Joaquin Valley community not far from Stockton and Modesto. Earlier this month officials of the local CSEA chapter filed a police report claiming that the union was about $9,000 short. The prime focus of the investigation is former treasurer and bus driver Lincy Merritt, who stepped down August 15.
Merritt, 44, the union alleges, embezzled more than $5,000 since March 31, 2004 to pay for personal expenses. Additionally, notes local secretary and acting treasurer Denise Cheeseman, Merritt failed to process the necessary paperwork to collect dues from new members, resulting in an additional $4,000 loss. Union officials this June had noticed certain discrepancies in financial records, at which point President Liz Rouda ordered a special audit. For whatever reason, the audit found, the union’s finances had not undergone regularly scheduled audits in a while. Tracy Police Detective Marc Bergman said his department has just begun its investigation, which should last at least a month. Thus far police have not filed criminal charges against Merritt, nor has the union taken disciplinary action against her. In the meantime, she remains in the union, employed as a bus driver. (Stockton Record, 8/17/06).