BTU’s Boss Ducks The Tough Vote


You would think that when  teachers union members pay Pat Santeramo $175,922-a-year, the union boss would at least show up for meetings.

You would be wrong.

 pat santeramo

Six Figure Santeramo

So Broward Teachers Union members. Where was your  union chief when the school system’s Insurance Advisory Committee was raising your health insurance rates earlier this year?

Not at the insurance committee meeting, where he is entitled to participate as the BTU president.

According to the transcripts of the committee, six-figure Santeramo skipped the key July 27, 2009 meeting which voted to raise health insurance rates. 

The Federation of Public Employees, which represents bus drivers and other blue collar workers, sent a representative. So did other employee groups.

I have the transcripts of eight meetings of the insurance committee between April and October, 2008.  Santeramo missed three of the meetings and only attended half of another meeting.

A school kid with absences like that would be sent to the principal’s office.   Santeramo is just sent a big pay check.

Now the union is screaming about the skyrocketing insurance costs for its members.

So why didn’t Santeramo show up for the insurance committee vote?  Why didn’t he vote against the increase when he had the chance? 

I suggest BTU members ask Prosperous Pat. After all he picked up $175,922 annually from his dues paying members last year. He owes them  a good answer.

BTU spokesman John Ristow did have an answer for

“BTU President Pat Santeramo resigned from the insurance committee and issued a letter of protest. The BTU believes the committee is skewed with school board board members who not only sit on the advisory committee, but also then turn around and vote on their own ‘advise.’ The union also believes the committee is heavily weighted by administrators who appear to purely follow the vote of the school board members.

Actually, the transcripts show that consultants drove the train.  School Board members only reluctantly followed.  

To be honest, the school system had little choice about raising insurance costs.  The price of insurance is largely out of the system’s control.

Mandates from the state expanding required coverage for autistic children and other psychiatric problems are good things, but they cost money.  Hospital charges went from $6,200 to $6,700 average-per-patient. Visits to the emergency room went to 248 from 227-per-thousand employees covered. Drug costs climbed.

Somebody has to pay.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am very sympathetic with teachers who are paying record increases for health insurance.

But taxpayers like me are paying big increases in health insurance, too.  Our piggy bank is bare and it isn’t filling up soon.

The School Board took bids from health care providers last year.  Vista proved by far the cheapest. 

Consultants working for the school system recommended against taking bids again this year, saying it was better to work out a deal with Vista.

There has been a lot written about the role of School Board member Stephanie Kraft in the Vista contract. Her husband Mitch Kraft worked for a Vista lobbyist Neil Sterling.

I will in no way excuse Mitch Kraft’s work for Sterling. It was wrong. Wrong.  Wrong.

Whether her husband’s work influenced Stephanie Kraft can’t be determined by the transcripts.  They indicated Stephanie Kraft hardly spoke at the public meeting which decided on the increase.

Her vote didn’t make any difference.  The rate increase passed unanimously.  The vote included employee groups like the Federation and those representing secretaries, principals and other management folks.

But it didn’t include the Santeramo.

He didn’t vote yes. He didn’t vote no.

He didn’t vote at all.

Wikipedia defines cowardice as “the perceived failure to demonstrate sufficient robustness in the face of a challenging situation.

Aren’t BTU members paying for their union to “demonstrate sufficient robustness in the face of a challenging situation?

Or are they paying for union bosses who lack the courage to cast a vote?


Here is a link to an informative, well-done story in The Miami Herald about the Broward schools health insurance controversy.

9 Responses to “BTU’s Boss Ducks The Tough Vote”

  1. Stop The Madness says:

    School board members should be prohibited from participating in contract pre-selection committees. They are not best qualified, if at all to participate on that function and their presence there, as elected officials, smells terribly from an ethical perspective. Their involvement tends more often to detract value, or from getting the best possible entity to provide the best possible service at the lowest price available.

    Instead we see a school board that too often supports the wrong group, providing a mediocre service, at a higest cost than is necessary. Stop this madness now.

    They have it entirely backward.

    Get the elected officials out of the procurement selection process, put independent and knowledgeable people in the mix instead, an you will see competition and better value emerge instantly. The cost savings will be huge and the service we get will be better.

    As to BTU, they have no business on any of those committees either. Professionals know what to look for in the case of a health insurance contract for staff. Best coverage possible at the lowest cost, based on the majority wishes of the staff.

    These sweetheart deals involving payola or the appearance of same must stop now. Enough.

  2. School Employee says:

    Santeramo and the BTU are disgraces and the increase in health insurance rates prove they have no influence.
    Classroom teachers are ignored by the union, except when it came for them to sign up for the BTU deducation. They claim they represent you if you need legal representation. Just ask around your school if they really do.

  3. Why says:

    Stop The Madness is right. There is no reason that School Board members or employee groups should be part of the decision about health insurance. Why are the principals involved at all since they don’t have a bargaining agreement? Companies don’t consult with employees and most administrators about what insurance to offer. By allowing School Board members and employees groups participation, they are inviting lobbyists and politics to overshadow good sense.

  4. Bunkster says:

    Yet another article filled with bunk. What is up with you? Why would Santeramo attend a committee meeting if he resigned from the committee in protest? You write he belongs to the committee, but you also write that he resigned from the committee. Which is it? If he resigned from the committee, of course, he would not attend the meetings.

    FROM BUDDY: I didn’t write he resigned. That’s in the BTU statement, which I quoted.
    Why did Santeramo resign? Doesn’t he owe it to his members to represent them during discussions of the most important benefit offered by the school system to its employees?
    He acted like a Kindergarten kid. The game wasn’t going his way, so he picked up his blocks and went home.
    There is value in staying in the debate and making your case. There is a value in voting against the increase as a protest. Santeramo is paid to represent the BTU members all the time, not just when he wants to.

  5. Bunkster says:

    Buddy? Why would suggest readers go to a Herald article about the same topic that contradicts the whole premise of your blog? Your blog is about Santeramo not attending meetings of a committee he didn’t even belong to and the Herald article you refer people to confirms this. To bad your blog was not “informative or well-done” as you describe the Herald article.

    Herald: “Santeramo and Reynolds, the union heads, were not at that meeting, having left the insurance committee in protest a few months earlier.

    ‘The committee itself was really weighted heavily toward the district,” said Santeramo, adding that he has questioned why the 15-member group has three board members. “It’s a little unusual.'”

    FROM BUDDY: He belonged to the committee. He
    chose not to attend.
    He calls it quitting in protest. I call it shirking his responsibility.
    Reynolds was not at the meeting, but the Federation of Public Employees sent a representative. Here is the transcript: “Dan Reynolds is unable to attend; Marilyn Swank is here as his designee.”

  6. BTU Communications says:

    Below is the complete statement released by the BTU. It clearly indicates that the BTU has continued to fight for its members and represent their interests by pursuing a change in the composition of the district’s insurance advisory committee through the negotiations process. Sadly, even though the blog contradicts itself, Buddy also chose to keep his readers from knowing about this by not including BTU’s entire statement because it further weakens and contradicts his point of view. It’s a shame because Buddy often has many good things to write, but not this time.

    Omitted Portion of BTU Statement: “The BTU is currently fighting through the negotiations process to have the composition of the insurance committee members changed so it is less subject to the apparent unethical and corrupt influence of school board members and their cronies. The BTU believes the advisory committee should consist of employees who are directly impacted by the advise it offers to the board.”

    While Buddy chose not to include this part of BTU’s statement in his blog, the Sun-Sentinel did include it in an “informative and well-done” article about the same insurance committee, which was published on Thursday, October 29th on the front page of the newspaper.

    I left out the end of the BTU statement because it has nothing to do with the insurance rate hike.

    John Ristow , who wrote the comment above, is paid to spin. He is paid very well, more than $100,000-a-year.

    His comment above is BTU spin.

    The statement says is that the BTU is negotiating — Behind closed doors where their members can’t see or hear what’s going on. Union negotiations are exempt from the Sunshine Law. — to change the composition of the insurance committee in the future.

    This idea does absolutely nothing for the employees faced with insurance increases today.

    By the way, the idea that the insurance committee should should “consist of employees who are directly impacted by the advise it offers to the board” is perhaps the most ridiculous suggestion I’ve heard recently.

    Ristow seems to be saying that only employees will be on the insurance committee.

    So under the BTU plan, the employees (the BTU and other unions) would recommend what their own benefits should be!

    I wonder if the BTU plan includes committee members who are administrators. They are employees, too. But the BTU earlier complained about the administrators on the current committee.

    Like it or not, the School Board is elected to represent the taxpayers when deciding how much to pay for insurance. They are the only representatives that the taxpayers have in this $200 million-plus decision.

    If there is something wrong with a School Board member, beat ’em at the polls.

    The BTU makes a major effort at every School Board election. The BTU also backed many of the School Board members, who they now call corrupt.

    If the BTU really wants change, why not a committee of taxpayers who are not connected with the school system in any way? Who better to serve on the insurance committee than the folks who foot the bill?

  7. Buddy No Need To Explain says:

    Buddy, your efforts to explain a point that you previously made extraordinarily well to anyone that just won’t accept how lousy a decision it was for the BTU president to walk out on the insurance committee is a waste of your time.

    It is not just that Pat Santeramo walked out on the committee. It’s that he walked out on his members. Perhaps he has a family member working at Vista too…because there is no excuse for him to not fight to the bitter end when it comes to the well being of his members.

    They will attack you for telling the truth because Santeramo has legions of loyal puppies wating to lick his boots. But we know the truth. That union has always been corrupt. Corruption is their culture, that along with trying to extort public officials, bending the weak ones to do their will under threat of not endorsing them.

    I think the time has come for all stand up politicians that do business with any union — fire, police, general employees, teachers, whatever it is — to say they will not accept those endorsements or better yet to pass laws that doesn’t allow them to accept those endorsements. This way they have no reason to be so frigging fearful of unions.

    I’ve had enough of this shit with my tax dollars.

  8. InTheKnow says:

    Perfect point for a perfect union bust…

    Albert Shanker: “When students start paying union dues I’ll represent the interests of school children.”

    FROM BUDDY: Civilization was destroyed when “a man named Albert Shanker got hold of a nuclear warhead” — Woody Allen, Sleeper (1973).
    For those of you who don’t know Albert Shanker, he was the United Federation of Teachers activist and later president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). His campaigns in New York City are credited with being responsible for building the nationwide teachers union movement.

  9. BTUseless says:

    What is so funny about the BTU spin machine is that someone is finally exposing them for the hypocrites and con-artists they are. They claim waste and fraud while secretly defrauding their members. They pride themselves in offering “legal protection”- a VERY vague statement that many teachers believe means protection from lawsuits or problems created by parents. Many of the BTU staff say this publicly. The reality is they will not give it in ANY case except when management acts against the employee- very rare times indeed. So rare, that BTU is able to fill their pockets with their members cash.

    Ristow and Santeramo have basically hijacked the The Pulp blog at New Times and the blog allows them to spew their crap without any check and balance or any disclosures about their shortcomings (like their outrageous salary). Buddy begins to look deeper and finds some great facts, all of a sudden they “don’t like” his articles anymore.

    Their glass house will crash also- any member should give themselves a raise and quit this joke of a union.