Hundreds of letter writers, many of them teachers, reacted with outrage to the deal federal prosecutors made with ex-United Tchrs. Of Dade boss Pat Tornillo, who admitted stealing between $500,000 and $800,000 from the union to pay for international travel, vacation home rentals and other luxuries. Federal prosecutors in Miami recommended no more than 2 yrs. in prison, and also promised that Tornillo will face no prosecution for any further wrongdoings that might come up in the ongoing investigation. Following are samples of responses sent to U.S. Dist. Judge Aldaberto Jordan (S.D. Fla., Clinton) that were published in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel on Oct. 2:
“I taught in closets, moved buckets around classrooms to collect rainwater and tried to teach 45 students in a summer school English class… I wondered what exactly my dues supported. Now I know! Please make him sit in jail.” [Betty Zima, retired teacher]
“While I was teaching in Liberty City and buying supplies for my children, Mr. Tornillo was spending my money to ‘play’ and build his palace.” [Lisa Stockfleth]
“I am a Miami-Dade County public school teacher and taxpayer. I did not choose this profession for the money, but I do work very hard for it. Mr. Tornillo has stolen a great deal of money from my colleagues and I. In addition, he has betrayed our trust. If he is allowed this plea deal, I will also lose my faith in the legal system.” [Jean-Marie Penny]
“I’ve been living in the Miami area since 1969 and have read about many kinds of thievery perpetrated by our “trusted” officials. I think that Pat Tornillo’s crime is the absolute worst” [Carol Z. Barnett]
“He systematically robbed the teachers union for years while telling the rank and file to work harder and even give up a paycheck!” [Robert and Estrella M. Behan]
“If I, as a classroom teacher, were to abscond with funds however small the amount, I am certain I would receive the maximum sentence allowable by law…This only adds to the deterioration of a justice system that is ineffective because punishment is not swift, consistent and appropriate to the crime.” [Melanie Morales]
Matt Dates, a spokesman for the U.S. Attny. for the S. Dist. of Fla., said Tornillo’s punishment will be determined by federal sentencing guidelines. The judge already has accepted the plea bargain, but he could mete out a sentence that deviates from prosecutors’ recommendation or even the guidelines.