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Federal agents raided the headquarters of Duval Teachers United in Jacksonville, Florida, on September 6, and took boxes of computers and financial documents.
“An investigative team from FBI Jacksonville executed a court-authorized search warrant today to further the federal investigation,” an agency spokesperson told the Florida Times-Union. “As the investigation is ongoing, details regarding the discovery are not being released at this time.”
Local news reported that the investigation involved possible misappropriation of funds. The presence of IRS agents in the raid supports this.
Union officials had no comment, but released a statement that read, “We are focused on upholding our mission of supporting our members and the students we serve. We are cooperating fully with authorities and look forward to a full and thorough assessment of the facts. To respect the integrity of the process, we will not discuss any further details.”
The news crew saw prominent Florida criminal defense attorney Hank Cox at the scene, but he did not disclose the nature of the investigation or who he was representing.
With everyone involved, media outlets have also followed suit. There has not been a single update since the raid.
Now, conducting a raid is not in itself proof that a crime has been committed. It simply shows that the FBI and IRS received enough information to convince the judge that further investigation is needed. The presence of federal agents meant that the situation was beyond the scope of local law enforcement.
But the union’s finances are not a complete cipher. All unions and other tax-exempt organizations are required to file annual disclosure reports with the IRS. The most recent edition of Duval Teachers United covers the 2021-22 school year. There is nothing that indicates criminal activity, although there is at least a curiosity.
I don’t have any exact numbers on how many members the union has, although American Federation of Teachers documents say it’s around 7,500. The Duval union reported collecting more than $5 million in revenue in 2021-22, although that number is a bit misleading, as about $2.8 million of that was sent to state and national union affiliates.
This left the local approximately $2.2 million to run its operations. Its staff is small. The contract with Duval County Public Schools does not allow for the release of more than seven people to work for the union. It appears that the number of employees working in the headquarters building is the same.
There are two elected officials in the association. The president, Terry Brady, has held the position since 1999 and his executive vice president, Ruby George, since at least 2004–05.
That year, the union paid them $114,000 and $101,000, respectively.
Since then, his salary has fluctuated wildly. Brady’s salary increased from $160,000 in 2006–07 to more than $326,000 in 2019–20. He received $251,868 in 2021-22.
George’s salary trajectory was similar, though not always parallel to Brady’s. He received $134,000 in 2018-19 but nearly $327,000 the following year.
It is unusual for union officials’ pay to rise and fall dramatically, unless they are consistently deferring compensation for tax purposes and then collecting it in later years. Same thing can happen here also. But the amount involved is also unusual.
For example, Brady’s taxable compensation for 2021-22 surpassed that paid to the presidents of United Teachers Los Angeles ($140,000), the Chicago Teachers Union ($155,000) and even Florida’s largest teachers union, the United Teachers of Dade. Much more than the amount spent. ($217,000).
Duval Teachers United is similar in size to two other Florida teachers union locals, the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association and the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association. Their presidents earned $127,000 and $152,000, respectively, last year.
The Florida Education Association’s largest local affiliates have a long, tragic history of problems with the law and their own parent unions. The state and national unions have not commented on the Duval raid, but as far as I can tell, neither have they initiated trusteeship over the local.
“I’m sure there’s more to come.”
Mike Antonucci’s Union Report is published most Wednesdays; Look complete archive,
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