More than 100 members of the Lawrence Education Assn. met behind closed doors Monday to discuss $97,000 in missing union dues.
"People have questions," LEA President Sam Rabiola said after the hourlong session. "They want to know what happened to the money and they want to know where it is now."
Last week, Lawrence Police confirmed reports that a sizable portion of dues deducted from teachers' paychecks between Nov. 4, 2003, and Aug. 3, 2004, had not been forwarded to the Kansas-National Teachers Assn., of which LEA is an affiliate. Police said the theft, which is still being investigated, was apparently an inside job.
Rabiola, an English teacher at Free State High School, succeeded Wayne Kruse, a five-year incumbent, as LEA president last fall.
Rabiola said Kruse, a sixth-grade teacher at Quail Run School, had not been in the classroom since the LEA's 585 members learned of the suspected theft last week.
Kruse did not return calls Monday for comment.
Responding to questions posed by LEA members, Rabiola said:
- The union's losses are insured and will not force an increase in dues.
- Others on the union's executive committee -- Adela Solis, vice president; Linda Siebenthall, treasurer; Paula Hatcher, secretary -- were unaware of the shortfalls.
- Financial records are, at best, sparse. Cash withdrawals were commonplace.
- Internal policies have been tightened to prevent unauthorized spending in the future.
At Monday's meeting at the FSHS auditorium, Rabiola was joined by David Schauner, K-NEA general counsel and a member of the Lawrence City Commission.
The group plans to meet again Jan. 20 with K-NEA President Christy Levings in attendance.
"I'm trying to be as open and honest as I can be without getting into speculation," Rabiola said.
"Most people, I think, are sympathetic and supportive," Solis said. "They don't want us to give up. They want us to get to bottom of this and move on."
LEA represents about two-thirds of the school district's 900 teachers.
Rabiola later Monday attended the meeting of the Lawrence school board. The board went into executive session, but Rabiola said he did not know whether members were discussing the investigation.