Laura Ann Brown headed a union representing employees at a youth mental health facility. What rank and file didn’t know is that their boss had serious issues of her own. Brown, formerly president of American Federation of Teachers Local 5095, pleaded guilty on November 12 in U.S. District Court for the District of Montana to embezzling more than $7,700 in funds from her union over a four-year period. She had been charged in September and is set for sentencing next March.
Brown, 42, a resident of Butte, like other union members, was a full-time employee at Acadia, a Butte-based facility for troubled youth. A union activist, she wrote the local’s constitution in February 2004. It didn’t take too long for her to use the organization to her own advantage. Federal prosecutors had charged that during December 2004-December 2008, she made electronic fund transfers, wrote unauthorized union checks, and withdrew cash from that account to pay for personal expenses. Conveniently, in 2005 she removed the local treasurer from office, indicated in court records as “S.B.,” leaving herself in charge of the union’s treasury. In 2006, an audit by the state parent union, the Montana Education Association-Montana Federation of Teachers, conducted an audit following a shortfall of forwarded dues. This past spring the Labor Department determined that she illegally converted $7,731.54 in union funds to personal use. She resigned as union president not long after.