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Treason claims as war of words breaks out in teachers’ union

A union representative has been branded “treasonous” by a teaching union.

Leonard Santucci, the Bermuda Union of Teachers representative at the Berkeley Institute, came under attack in a union internal memo after he highlighted claimed breaches of the Bermuda Union of Teachers constitution.

Dr Santucci, and 45 members he represents, demanded a special general membership meeting to discuss their concerns.

“On October 4, 2021, the BUT sent out an internal communiqué that refers to my actions as treasonous for speaking outside of the union and not addressing my concerns within the union first,” said Dr Santucci, a senior counsellor at Berkeley.

Leonard Santucci says he has been branded ‘treasonous’ by the BUT (File photograph)

“I am pleased to respond to the internal communiqué of the BUT where they are now challenging my character and actions in calling for a special general membership meeting to address the actions of the executive officers, executive committee and trustee board.”

He outlined several areas of concern in a July 1 e-mail to Nishanthi Bailey, the BUT president, highlighting the appointment of three people to the role of general secretary without ratification by the union membership.

Dr Santucci told The Royal Gazette last week that the BUT constitution ruled that the membership had authority over these matters but was bypassed. He said he attempted to resolve the problems through an e-mail exchange with Ms Bailey and later correspondence with officials.

He added that an appeal for a special general membership meeting, lodged on September 8, had faced resistance.

Dr Santucci claimed: “Madam president has failed to disclose to the executive officers, executive committee and trustees that I communicated with her internally via her BUT e-mail on July 1 expressing the concerns raised in the September 8 petition application.

“The members need to know of this glaring omission.

“We also talked on the phone briefly in late July 2021 as a result of me being abroad from July 5 to 19, 2021.

“This correspondence demonstrates that I adhered to standard protocol by addressing the matters in-house.

“Several of the persons who signed the petition application read and contributed to the development of the July 1 2021 letter. This has never been a one-man band on my part.”

Dr Santucci said that Ms Bailey responded to the e-mail and told him that was how the union was run and advised him to read the union’s constitution.

He added: “I took the president’s advice and acted on what the constitution states according to due process and procedure.

“I am very familiar with smear campaigns such as what they are attempting right now.

“My actions are not personal, they are constitutional. I am not of the opinion that these parties should run the union without affording the membership the right to have a voice and a vote.

“I am not asking the membership to place their faith and trust in me.

“I am asking the membership to read their own copy of the constitution.”

He said that he and the members he represented had followed the constitution and tried to reach a resolution internally.

But Dr Santucci added that he was forced to go public after “confusion and push back”.

He warned that time was running out for a special general membership meeting because it should be held before the union’s Annual General Meeting, scheduled for the end of the month.

He added: “For the dissatisfied, I ask ‘how do you sound the alarm and advise 900 members when the clock is working against us’?

“The special general membership meeting should be held prior to the annual general membership meeting – they will not entertain it because I believe they are trying to have people elected before being required to give an account.

“We offered to host a special general membership meeting via Zoom and they declined. However, they are willing to host their AGM via Zoom.”

Dr Santucci said the BUT’s financial audits had not been submitted since 2016.

He added: “I do not believe that the membership should allow the executive officers, executive committee and trustees to take from us our voice, our vote and our money without accountability.”

Dr Santucci said that the general membership was bypassed in the decision to remove Mike Charles, then the general secretary, in June.

He added that the executive committee also appointed three people to take over the general secretary role without ratification by members.

These were Angel Heyliger, a trustee, Anthony Wolffe, a former BUT president, and Dante Cooper, a former recording secretary who was appointed as part-time general secretary designate.

Dr Santucci also claimed that bullying and sexual harassment policies were “implemented and updated” by the executive committee without ratification by the membership.

The BUT did not respond to requests for comment sent last week and the week before.