Managing the finances of a teachers union can be lucrative, especially if it means extra, and illegal, income. Rae Dawn Grillo has discovered that thefts usually are found out. On February 18, Grillo, former treasurer of the Charleroi Area Education Association, was arrested and charged in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Washington County (Pittsburgh area) Court, with three felony counts related to her embezzlement of more than $65,000 in funds from the Charleroi-based union over a five-year period. And yesterday, March 16, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced it would not seek an indictment following her agreement to plead guilty to local charges.
Prosecutors allege that Rae Dawn Grillo, 55, a resident of Fallowfield Township, during 2007-12 used a union checking account to make unauthorized withdrawals. The probe began in June 2012 when the NEA-affiliated Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) discovered that its Charleroi chapter owed $7,262 in back dues. The state association approached the chapter’s new treasurer – Grillo by that time had become its president – and found numerous checks drawn from an emergency strike fund that had been made out to “cash.” The PSEA reported the problem to local police. Upon questioning, she admitted to writing the checks. After a meeting in November 2012 with the local association, she agreed to return $57,788 within 90 days. The Department of Labor meanwhile had been conducting its own investigation, concluding the Charleroi association bank account had accumulated an unexplained debt of $8,175 during Grillo’s tenure as treasurer. Grand total: $65,963.
Ms. Grillo, a former speech therapist in the Charleroi Area School District, was released on $50,000 bond. In return for her tentative guilty plea, Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone has agreed to withdraw one of the theft charges. The case follows a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.