In a class action suit filed yesterday, a candidate for president of the Baltimore Teachers Union demanded that the union's leaders pay interest on thousands of dollars worth of salary advances they received from two labor groups in recent years.
Union Presidents Irene B. Dandridge and Lorretta Johnson engaged in "financial practices that have severely damaged the unions," alleges the suit filed by Adolph McDonald on behalf of members of the teachers union and the Federation of Maryland Teachers.
McDonald, 59, a special-education teacher at Baltimore's Lakeland Elementary School, seeks an injunction to halt any further advances from the teachers union and the related federation.
The Sun reported this week that Dandridge and Johnson, the longtime presidents of the BTU's two chapters, and other union employees, had received interest-free salary advances totaling more than $245,000 during the past four years. Last year, Dandridge and Johnson also borrowed against the stipends each receives from the federation.
At the end of the last fiscal year in June, both owed a small amount to the federation. Johnson told The Sun she still owes "a couple thousand" to the BTU, which will be settled by December.
Dandridge and Johnson did not respond to messages seeking comment last night. Both have defended their spending practices in recent days. They said they halted the salary advance practice at the BTU in June after an auditor advised against it.
"They are in a deficit right now, which means the organization is going down," McDonald said. "What was borrowed far exceeds that deficit. We want the courts to just say stop. Let's look at it and examine it."
The BTU ended last fiscal year with a $134,000 deficit; the federation had a positive balance.
McDonald also asked the court to stop the union from making more payments on retirement annuities started last year for
both presidents. Last year, the union paid $80,000 toward the annuities, covering two years of a 10-year commitment that ultimately will cost the union $400,000.
McDonald is running against Dandridge in the May 16 election of BTU officers. A third candidate, Marcia Brown, is named with Dandridge and Johnson as a defendant in the lawsuit in her capacity as the BTU's executive vice president, an unpaid position.
In 1994, McDonald was fired as a field representative for the federation, an umbrella labor group affiliated with the BTU, and returned to teaching. He is involved in a legal dispute with the federation over his departure.
Brown said she was mystified about being a defendant because she said she had no role in the advances or in the approval of the annuities for Dandridge and Johnson. She has been on the board two years; the annuities were approved the year before she was elected executive vice president.
"I don't understand why my name would be included," Brown said. "But the practices he would say stop, I would say stop as well."
Johnson is running unopposed for another two-year term as president of the teacher aides.
Pub Date: 5/11/96