Rhondalyn Cornett had ways of supplementing her income at the expense of the school teachers she represented. Unfortunately, those ways were illegal. Yesterday, Cornett, former president of the Indianapolis Education Association (IEA), was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana to 16 months in prison, to be followed by two years of probation, for embezzling $154,000 from the IEA over a four-year period. She had been charged last July, pleading guilty immediately thereafter. The actions follow a joint probe by the FBI, the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General, and the Indianapolis metro police.
Cornett, now 55, a resident of Indianapolis and a longtime teacher herself, during November 2013-November 2018 served as president of the Indianapolis Education Association, an affiliate of the Indiana State Teachers Association and the National Education Association. For the last four of those years, she diverted member dues payments to herself on numerous occasions. According to prosecutors, she wrote checks to herself from a union bank account, and used her union debit card to withdraw cash and pay for personal expenses. Eventually, suspicious union members in 2018 called out Cornett for the missing money, and she resigned her post soon after. A Justice Department investigation led to her prosecution and guilty plea last July. At sentencing, U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler put it this way: “Ms. Cornett held a position of public trust and authority over students and her fellow colleagues at Indiana Public Schools. She violated that trust and took advantage of her authority to line her pockets with others’ money.”