Teacher union bosses hiding taxpayer-funded political communications from public

Detroit, MI (January 28, 2010) – With free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation, a citizen activist announced today that he will file an appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court in an ongoing public disclosure battle over the use of school district e-mail systems for union political activities.

In 2007, political activist Chetly Zarko from DeWitt – invoking Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) disclosure law – requested e-mail communications among Howell Education Association (HEA) union brass regarding heated collective bargaining negotiations between the Howell Public School (HPS) system and union officials.  The HEA union is a local affiliate of the Michigan Education Association and National Education Association unions.

At the time of the collective bargaining conflict, Zarko suspected union boss lobbying was occurring at taxpayer expense.  Zarko is seeking the release of approximately 5,500 e-mails between the union hierarchy and teachers.

HEA union officials claimed a special exception from the requirements of Michigan’s FOIA law, despite the fact that the e-mails were sent over a taxpayer funded e-mail system and the HPS’s “Acceptable Use Policy” explicitly states that e-mails sent on the server are “not consider private communication [and] may be re-posted.” 

Foundation attorneys won a ruling from the Livingston Circuit Court requiring disclosure, but union lawyers managed to convince the State of Michigan Court of Appeals to overturn the lower court’s decision.  

“Public resources should not be spent on the shadowy and self-serving political activities of union bosses,” said Patrick Semmens, Legal Information Director of the National Right to Work Foundation.  “Howell Education Association union officials should be subject to the same public disclosure requirements as everyone else who uses taxpayer funds.”

            The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses.  The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in over 200 cases nationwide. Its web address is www.nrtw.org
For Release: January 28, 2010
Contact: Anthony Riedel (800) 336-3600