FBI and IRS Raid Local Teachers Union Headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida

A raid is not evidence that a crime has been committed. But the union's finances aren’t a complete cipher — & its officer salaries are off the scale.

A photo of the Skyline of Jacksonville, Florida

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Federal agents raided the headquarters of Duval Teachers United in Jacksonville, Florida, on Sept. 6, carrying away computers and boxes of financial documents.

“An investigative team from FBI Jacksonville executed a court-authorized search warrant today in furtherance of a federal investigation,” an agency spokesperson told the Florida Times-Union. “Because the investigation is ongoing, details about the search are not being released at this time.”

Local news reported that the investigation involves the potential misappropriation of funds. The presence of IRS agents at the raid supports this.

Union officers would not comment but released a statement that read, “We continue to be focused on upholding our mission of supporting our members and the students we serve. We are fully cooperating with authorities and anticipate a full and thorough assessment of the facts. To respect the integrity of the process, we will not discuss any further details.”

News crews spotted prominent Florida criminal defense attorney Hank Coxe at the scene, but he would not reveal the nature of the investigation or whom he was representing.

With everyone involved mum, media outlets have followed suit. There hasn’t been a single update since the raid occurred.

Now, a raid is not itself evidence that a crime has been committed. It only shows that the FBI and IRS received enough information to convince a judge that further investigation was warranted. The presence of federal agents means the situation was beyond the scope of local law enforcement.

But the union’s finances aren’t a complete cipher. All unions and other tax-exempt organizations are required to file an annual disclosure report with the IRS. The most recent one from Duval Teachers United covers the 2021-22 school year. It contains nothing that indicates criminal activity, though there is at least one curiosity.

I don’t have a definitive number for how many members the union has, though American Federation of Teachers documents suggest it is in the vicinity of 7,500. The Duval union reported collecting more than $5 million in revenue in 2021-22, though that number is a little deceiving, since almost $2.8 million of it was forwarded to state and national union affiliates.

That left about $2.2 million for the local to run its operations. Its staff is small. The contract with the Duval County Public Schools allows no more than seven people to be released to work for the union. It appears that is the number staffing the headquarters building.

The union has two elected officers. The president, Terrie Brady, has held that position since 1999, and her executive vice president, Ruby George, since at least 2004-05.

That year, the union paid them $114,000 and $101,000, respectively.

Since then, their pay has fluctuated wildly. Brady’s salary ranged from $160,000 in 2006-07 to more than $326,000 in 2019-20. She received $251,868 in 2021-22.

George’s salary had a similar trajectory, though not always parallel to Brady’s. She received $134,000 in 2018-19 but almost $327,000 the following year.

It’s unusual for union officers’ pay to rise and fall that dramatically, unless they are constantly deferring compensation for tax purposes and then collecting it in later years. That may be the case here. But the amounts involved are also unusual.

For example, Brady’s taxable compensation for 2021-22 greatly exceeded the amounts paid to the presidents of United Teachers Los Angeles ($140,000), the Chicago Teachers Union ($155,000) and even that of the largest teachers union in Florida, the United Teachers of Dade ($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 made $127,000 and $152,000, respectively, last year.

The largest local affiliates of the Florida Education Association have a long, sad history of problems with the law and their own parent unions. The state and national unions have not commented on the Duval raid, but neither have they initiated a trusteeship over the local, as far as I can tell.

“There’s more to come, I’m sure.”

Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears most Wednesdays; see the full archive.

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