Miami Union Election Under Scrutiny by AFT, State

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The American Federation of Teachers and a Florida employee-relations agency are conducting a preliminary probe into the results of the election for president of the United Teachers of Dade.

The investigation was sparked by a request from candidate Shirley B. Johnson, the former secretary-treasurer of the 15,800-member union, which represents teachers in the Miami-Dade County school district. She charges that the results “depict numerous violations to the election procedures and blatant fraud.”

Ms. Johnson, a 3rd grade teacher, narrowly lost the presidential race to high school English and language arts teacher Karen Aronowitz in a runoff held last month. Ms. Aronowitz received 4,756 votes—407 more than Ms. Johnson.

If the state’s Public Employee Relations Commission finds any evidence of improper election procedures, a more thorough investigation will follow.

Ties to Former Leader

Ms. Johnson, who leads a group called the One UTD Caucus, served under former President Pat L. Tornillo Jr. Mr. Tornillo pleaded guilty to defrauding the union and stealing roughly $650,000 between 1998 and 2001. He is serving a 27-month federal prison sentence, and the union has been led by AFT administrator Mark Richard since the summer of 2003.

During the campaign for new officers, Ms. Aronowitz charged that Ms. Johnson was partly to blame for the crisis and that she didn’t report Mr. Tornillo’s thefts, but Ms. Johnson said that she knew nothing about any wrongdoing. She was cleared after the investigation.

Meanwhile, Ms. Aronowitz and other newly elected officers were introduced to the school board of the 338,000-student district last month and will be in training over the next few months. They are expected to take office April 30, when the AFT’s administratorship ends.

Vol. 24, Issue 16, Page 3

Published in Print: January 5, 2005, as Miami Union Election Under Scrutiny by AFT, State
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