How a Union Boss Turned Old Light Bulbs Into a $574,000 Vacation Home
posted at 10:24 am on July 13, 2012 by Mike Antonucci
I’ve been combing through the arrest warrant for Pat Santeramo, the former president of the Broward Teachers Union (BTU) who was charged with 20 counts of fraud, racketeering and other stuff. It makes for fascinating reading. Many of the charges stem from Santeramo’s working relationship with David Esposito, the head of Marstan Construction. Esposito was apparently provided immunity in exchange for his help in the Santeramo investigation.
Esposito would invoice BTU for work done at the union’s headquarters building, then add a few thousand more to be kicked back, in cash, to Santeramo. But that’s not all. Even without the kickbacks, the amount of money billed for the amount of work done seems wildly out of proportion. The arrest warrant lists the date each invoice was filed, and a description of the work. Here it is, in total:
March 11, 2006 – “parking lot repairs, stripping and installing parking lot signs.” Invoice for $38,520, $10,000 of which was kicked back to Santeramo.
October 16, 2006 – “replacing light bulbs, painting, flag replacement and straighten sign post.” $13,775 – $5k to Santeramo.
December 18, 2006 – “install a tree, clean dumpster, replace flags and light bulbs.” $14,803.42 – $5k to Santeramo.
January 10, 2007 – “sound installation, ceiling tiles, A/C duct work and electrical work.” $88,350 – $10k to Santeramo.
January 22, 2007 – “replaced ballasts, spread ant killer, sprayed for weeds and shampoo carpet.” $14,095 – $5k to Santeramo.
September 4, 2007 – “install flags on patio flag pole, checked A/C drain line, ant killer, vegetation kill and cleaned downstairs carpets.” $16,612.57 – $5k to Santeramo.
October 5, 2007 – “wall repairs, shampoo carpets, replace light bulbs and installed vertical blinds.” $22,249,42 – $5k to Santeramo.
November 5, 2007 – “repaired fence, installed peg boards, removed projection screen, grind stump and drywall repair.” $14,277.52 – $5k to Santeramo.
December 3, 2007 – “tree removal and permit.” $10,800 – $2.5K to Santeramo.
December 3, 2007 – “replace light bulbs, install new door, painting and install carpet.” $13,638.89 – $2.5k to Santeramo.
January 22, 2008 – “weed killer, ant-killer, touch up paint, adjust sprinkler heads and clean dumpster.” $11,162.93 – $2.5k to Santeramo.
March 11, 2008 to February 26, 2009 – repairs to BTU two-story elevator. $89,295.88 – $20k to Santeramo
March 18, 2008 – “replace light fixtures in parking lot, changed light bulbs and reset timers.” $6,155,60 – $2k to Santeramo.
June 26, 2008 – “change light bulbs, repair A/C leak, replace drywall, replace sprinkler heads and repair three-way switch.” $18,258.73 – $5k to Santeramo.
July 23, 2008 – “replace light bulbs, weed killer, cleaned drain holes in patio, painted roof deck, and mulch in flower beds.” $22,128.15 – $5k to Santeramo.
December 9, 2008 – “roof maintenance, pressure clean sidewalk, weeded, spread ant kill and changed light bulbs.” $18,115.91 – $5k to Santeramo.
January 4, 2009 – “replace parking lot lights, pressure clean patio, clean patio drains, spread weed killer and replace light bulbs.” $16,384.76 – $5k to Santeramo.
January 5, 2009 – “sealed windows, pressure wash patio, painted deck, cleaned parking lot and dumpster area.” $16,348.78 – $5k to Santeramo.
February 26, 2009 – “replace light bulbs, replace ballasts, weed and ant killer, repair sprinkler line, repair door hinge, and buy paint to match interior walls.” $18,132.24 – $5k to Santeramo.
April 30, 2009 – “weed and ant killer, replace ballasts, replace light bulbs, replace flags, replaced sprinklers and cleaned parking lot.” $13,653.26 – $5k to Santeramo.
July 6, 2009 – “repaired toilets, installed filters in drinking fountain, cleaned dumpster area, dyed carpet in Pat’s office, and weed and ant killer.” $11,987.32 – $3k to Santeramo.
November 2, 2009 – “replaced flags, installed kick plates, replaced light bulbs and repaired door handle.” $20,980 – $5k to Santeramo.
January 25, 2010 – “roof maintenance, pressure clean sidewalk, weeded, spread ant kill, and changed light bulbs.” $6,423.92 – $2k to Santeramo.
March 9, 2010 – “roof maintenance, clean patio drain, spread ant kill, put down weed killer, and changed light bulbs.” $14,842.62 – $5k to Santeramo.
May 18, 2010 – “roof maintenance, replace ballasts, weeded, cleaned patio drain, relocated door name signs, spread ant kill and changed light bulbs.” $17,950 – $5k to Santeramo.
June 22, 2010 – “cleaned roof deck, moved furniture, cleaned parking lot, cut trees and changed light bulbs.” $18,290.66 – $5k to Santeramo.
August 17, 2010 – “roof maintenance, repaired flag pole cord, and re-hung BTU flag, spread weed killer, spread ant kill and changed light bulbs.” $13,708.64 – $5k to Santeramo.
August 26, 2010 – “repair plumbing leak, dry and clean carpet, replaced ceiling tiles and replaced ballast.” $4,385 – $1k to Santeramo.
September 21, 2010 – “installed locks on doors, general landscaping, repaired damaged curb in parking lot, touch-up painting and replaced light ballast.” $16,237.79 – $5k to Santeramo.
December 8, 2010 – “fertilized, repaired sprinklers, removed dead plants, weed killer, spread ant killer and changed light bulbs.” $17,194.90 – $5k to Santeramo.
January 12, 2011 – “spread ant killer, pressure clean sidewalk and patio, fertilized, replaced light bulbs and installed two flags.” $17,374.12 – $5k to Santeramo.
April 4, 2011 – “weed and ant killer, replaced bulbs, clean A/C drain, adjust sprinkler heads, clean dumpster area, and repair toilet.” $13,737.34 – $5k to Santeramo.
A number of these expenses catch the eye. “I didn’t think anybody could be infected with that many ants,” said Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti. And certainly there was an awful lot of work with flags, flag poles and flag cord. But it seems the entire BTU staff spent a significant part of every day in the dark, considering the number of light bulbs and ballasts that had to be replaced. The amount of cash being disbursed from union funds for such mundane tasks never lit a light bulb over anyone’s head.
As egregious as this list is, Esposito told police that the kickbacks to Santeramo began with the renovation of the BTU building in early 2000. There’s no telling how much union cash Santeramo collected, but he bought a $574,000 vacation home in November 2007, putting $274,000 down, and paid off the mortgage in three years.
Esposito also testified that repair work he performed at the homes of Santeramo’s two adult children were paid for with BTU dues money.
We also learned that police interviewed former BTU president Tony Gentile to learn if he had actually initialed the March 8, 2000 memo Santeramo produced as evidence of his entitlement to unused sick leave and vacation time. Gentile provided a sworn statement that he had never seen the memo, which in any case did not contain his initials, since he always used AJG and not the TG listed on it. Members of the BTU executive board denied any knowledge of the memo, and said they never would have authorized the settlement AFT administrator John Tarka reached with Santeramo had they known it was based on the memo.
Finally, the arrest warrant reveals that aside from the five union officials already charged with political campaign violations, Santeramo reimbursed himself from dues money for campaign contributions he and his wife made. Esposito was also reimbursed for a $500 contribution, as was BTU communications director John Ristow, who “acknowledged that everyone was aware that they would be reimbursed; otherwise, no one would have contributed.” Neither Esposito nor Ristow has been charged with any crime. There is still the question of the 44 BTU delegates to the Florida Education Association convention, all of whom were allegedly reimbursed out of dues money for $50 contributions made to the AFT’s political action committee.